Pharyngula

Prayer doesn’t work. Enshrine it in the law — prayer is not a helpful action, but rather a neglectful one. Teach it in the schools — when the health class instructs students in how to make a tourniquet or do CPR, also explain that prayer is not an option. Faith in prayer kills people.

The Wisconsin parents who allowed their daughter to die in a diabetic coma because they believed prayer was sufficient aid have been charged with second degree reckless manslaughter. That seems about right to me.

Read this account of the progression of their daughter’s disease, and ask yourself at what point you would be taking her to the doctor, if she were your child. At some point between the first and second paragraph, I would have been rushing her to the emergency room; round about the third or fourth paragaph, I would have been freaking out and screaming into a telephone for an ambulance. They just let it go on and on, getting worse and worse.

Dale Neumann said on the Friday before his daughter died he noticed she was “a little more tired,” but that she ate a McDonald’s meal without any problems. By Saturday he noted the girl “seemed to act like she had a fever” while her breathing seemed a little labored.

Meanwhile, Leilani Neumann told police that by Saturday, “Kara was laying on the couch. Her legs looked skinny and blue. I didn’t realize how skinny she was. We took her to my bed where I got her warm. I thought it was a spiritual attack. We stayed by her side nonstop and we prayed.

“I asked Kara if she loved Jesus and she shook her head yes.”

Later Saturday, “Kara got up to go to the bathroom and fell off the toilet,” Leilani Neumann told police.

Dale Neumann told police he thought his daughter was getting better on Sunday but that at one point he tried to sit her up but she was unable to remain up.

The investigator said he used the term “unconscious” to describe the girl’s condition, according to the report, while Dale Neumann “preferred to say that she was ‘in sleep mode.’ “

Dale Neumann said Kara couldn’t communicate and wasn’t taking any water.

Randall Wormgoor encouraged Dale Neumann to call for medical help but the father “said he remained confident and steadfast in his belief that prayer would heal Madeline,” according to an interview Dale Neumann gave to police.

Dale Neumann said he heard a “commotion” coming from the room where his daughter was lying down and that he began CPR efforts. One of the Wormgoors called 911.

Note that it wasn’t even the parents who called for emergency help — it was a visiting friend. And professional help wasn’t requested until she was dead. The Neumanns would no doubt have gone directly from neglecting their daughter to calling their local witch doctor priest to carry out the funeral ceremony.

The Neumanns have three other children. They’ve been taken away from them. That’s good, too, given these statements.

Dale Neumann told investigators that “given the same set of circumstances with another child, he would not waiver in his faith and confidence in the healing power of prayer,” according to the interview statement.

Police also said an e-mail Dale Neumann sent at 4:58 p.m. on March 22, the day before Kara’s death, showed that the parents were aware their daughter was very ill.

The subject line of the email was: “Help our daughter needs emergency prayer!!!!” The e-mail was send to AmericasLastDays, an online ministry run by David Eells.

Right. If you want concentrated stupid so dense that it has turned into evil, check out that vile website, although it does rightly and horrifyingly point out a catch in the law.

Wisconsin law, Section 948.04 (6) states: “A person is NOT guilty of an offense under this section solely because he or she provides a child with treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone for healing…” Also in Section 448.04 (6) it states: “No law of this state regulating the practice of medicine and surgery may be construed to interfere with the practice of Christian Science. A person who elects Christian Science treatment in lieu of medical or surgical treatment for the cure of disease may not be compelled to submit to medical or surgical treatment.” This section appears to refer to the application of Christian Healing as “Christian Science,” since no reference is given to indicate it means a particular denomination such as the “Church of Scientology.” And the writing of any law to protect only one denomination would violate the equal protection guaranteed under the constitution by protecting one sect over another.

In other words, the religious have an exemption that allows them to murder their children. “AmericasLastDays” thinks this excuses the parents; to me, it says that Wisconsin lawmakers should feel obligated to change a wretched loophole in the law that opens the door to the abuse of children.

Nothing excuses the lethal cruelty those parents exhibited to one of their kids.

Comments

  1. #1 Shaun
    April 29, 2008

    I wonder if they are going to call a lawyer or just rely on prayer to keep them out of jail.

  2. #2 MaqrMarcus Ranum
    April 29, 2008

    Think of it as evolution in action.

  3. #3 Jacob Gjedde
    April 29, 2008

    The parents should consider a legal defense based on an insanity plea – that ought to get them off the hook.

  4. #4 Jim RL
    April 29, 2008

    I originally didn’t want the parents to go to prison because I felt they had been misguided and had suffered enough. Reading the quotes about doing it again totally changed my mind. Does he not realize his daughter died of something that is readily curable with modern medicine? It does appear that Wisconsin state law will keep them out of trouble, though. Hopefully, this will at least be a wake up call to change the stupid law.

    Also, isn’t calling it a Christian Science exception violate equal protection? Can idiot Jews, Muslims, or Hindus let their children die for the sake the superstition?

  5. #5 AllanW
    April 29, 2008

    Cue the bleating from religiots all over the place;

    “That’s not how WE think.”

    Yes it is; if you refuse to look reality in the face you are just a less severely dangerous example of deluded fool. Oh and you provide the umbrella under which these monsters are allowed to practice their evil without getting wet.

  6. #6 firemancarl
    April 29, 2008

    Dale Neumann told investigators that “given the same set of circumstances with another child, he would not waiver in his faith and confidence in the healing power of prayer,” according to the interview statement.

    What the fuck?!

  7. #7 Greg Esres
    April 29, 2008

    Jail is likely to solidify their beliefs and those of their brethren. Rather, they should be locked up in a room with several deprogrammers for a week.

  8. #8 Jim RL
    April 29, 2008

    MaqrMarcus Ranum,

    That’s in poor taste. The young girl that died didn’t do anything to deserve idiot parents who would watch her slowly waste away. It’s a tragic case of where beleiving in superstitions takes you.

  9. #9 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    This kind of thing happens more than I’d care to think about it, and it really is horrifying. At least these parents were convicted of the crimes that they are so very guilty of, but regrettably this is not always the case.

    And this is the reason I have trouble taking people who say, “You have to respect my beliefs” seriously.

    Look where blindly respecting people’s beliefs has gotten this country. We have laws stating that, “A person who elects Christian Science treatment in lieu of medical or surgical treatment for the cure of disease may not be compelled to submit to medical or surgical treatment.” We have laws saying that it’s ok to show what should be criminal neglect towards your kids, just because you *believe* that what you’re doing is somehow grounded in the one true interpretation of a religiomoral mythology.

    If a person’s religion required that they go out and sacrifice a virgin every year, or that they bomb abortion clinics, we’d have no problem curtailing their freedom to practice that aspect of their religion (I hope). This is really no different. Actually, I’d say it’s probably even worse, because these poor children trust their parents to love them and care for them and to do what’s best for them. As Kara’s mother said, “I asked Kara if she loved Jesus and she shook her head yes.” This is just. so. sad. The girl probably went to her grave believing that what her parents were doing was right. The indoctrination and brainwashing that leads to this kind of acceptance of abuse and neglect from the parents that are supposed to love and care for you really ought to be beyond just criminal. It should be utterly morally repugnant to any civilized member of society.

  10. #10 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    Just to be clear though: “Christian Scientist”, while it technically is a term that can refer to any kind of Christian who believes in faith healing to the exclusion of modern medicine, is generally meant to refer to members of the faith-healing cult Church of Christ, Scientist. I think this is the context it is meant in the law.

    Not that this in any way changes the complete amorality of that law.

  11. #11 Dennis N
    April 29, 2008

    Tuesday, May 8th, I am going to a seminar on “the science of prayer” at the Christian Science center. It is a “community seminar”. Well, its my community and I was invited. I’m gonna have a few pointed questions for the speaker (this charlatan). Anyone have any studies/examples that I can bring to give me for support (besides basic frickin’ common sense)?

  12. #12 Richard, FCD
    April 29, 2008

    With the release of Grand Theft Auto IV for the Xbox today all the usual media and others are on their soap boxes touting how this genre of video game is a bad influence for kids and should be banned.

    I wonder if the same people will be using this case to argue against the dangers of religion?

  13. #13 drew
    April 29, 2008

    I am no lawyer, but as I understand it, the law above can only be applied to adults.

    IOW an adult can opt out of medical treatment because they believe in prayer healing, and another adult cannot be held for murder if praying for another very sick adult who (our) common sense dictates should be in a hospital but has opted out of it.

    But as far as I know, children by law cannot consent to faith only healing and as such parents are required to seek medical help for them. Which is why these people are being charged with murder 2 (reckless homicide)

  14. #14 hyperdeath
    April 29, 2008

    This should be treated as a mental health matter. If they’d refused medical intervention on the basis of fairies, they’d have committed to a psychiatric hospital without second thought. If they mention “God” on the other hand (for whom the base of evidence is roughly the same), their beliefs have to be “respected”.

  15. #15 Ross
    April 29, 2008

    Is this another of those cultural differences between the US and Britain? Over here, shaking your head means no.

  16. #16 Dennis N
    April 29, 2008

    Besides the one above, obviously.

  17. #17 raven
    April 29, 2008

    Same thing happened in Oregon. A 2 year old died of an easily treatable respiratory infection. The parents are being charged.

    Their Death Cult is called the Followers of Christ. It is estimated that over the last 4 decades, they have killed 30 to 40 of their own kids. These groups aren’t called death cults for nothing.

    Never have heard of an estimate of the numbers of kids killed by faith healers per year in the USA. Could be in the hundreds easy.

  18. #18 Moggie
    April 29, 2008

    …while Dale Neumann “preferred to say that she was ‘in sleep mode.’ “

    Cute. Well, Dale, I hope you will soon find yourself in “restricted freedom” mode.

    Be sure to read the press release from the “ministry” they were connected with. It’s a jaw-dropper, not least that they still think the girl may come back from the dead.

    I can’t write clearly on this subject: it reduces me to mostly incoherent rage.

  19. #19 Jeph
    April 29, 2008

    In addition to the combination of nausea and slack-jawed disbelief, I am inclined to wonder: During any time that these True Believers spend locked in a tiny box (perhaps Mr. Neumann can witness to his new roommate, “Bubba”), will their fellows regard them as political prisoners?

    I suspect the answer is yes, and they will trumpet it among themselves as evidence of “persecution.”

    Personally, my gut instinct is that parents who murder their children ought to be persecuted at some length. Perhaps with a horse whip.

  20. #20 drew
    April 29, 2008

    aparently I was wrong about the children thing I was under the impression that the supreme court ruled on this in the nineties and held that children couldn’t be only faith healed nevermind my above comments but they are still being charged apparently.

  21. #21 Jason Failes
    April 29, 2008

    #2 wrote: “Think of it as evolution in action.”

    Although #8 is correct, it was in poor taste, my objection is that, unfortunately, your statement is also incorrect:

    “The Neumanns have three other children.”

    Since the same type of Christianity that relies on faith-healing is also notably anti-contraception/pro-large family, we cannot rely on evolutionary algorithms do get rid of such people.

    We will have to change minds, because these bodies aren’t going away any time soon.

  22. #22 thwaite
    April 29, 2008

    Slightly off-topic, tho this NPR story is about school curricula: ‘Morning Edition’ reporter Greg Allen gave almost four minutes of naive credulous coverage for the ‘academic freedom’ debate going on now in the Florida legislature, which aspires to mandate equal time for criticism of the theory of evolution. Allen cited the Discovery Institute and Ben Stein for support of such critical thinking.
    There’s no specific response link on the NPR story page, just the general NPR contact info. Some critical e-mail seems appropriate.

  23. #23 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    @#15 Ross —

    Is this another of those cultural differences between the US and Britain? Over here, shaking your head means no.

    Over here, that’s generally what is meant too if you just write “shook her head”, but I have seen “shook her head yes” as a substitute for “nodded” occasionally. It’s kind of bizarre though. Why use such a confusing phrase when you have the perfectly good word “nodded” at your disposal?

  24. #24 Brodie
    April 29, 2008

    Prayer: they’re doing it wrong.

    Obviously they were supposed to pray to god for the doctors to heal their child.

  25. #25 Julian
    April 29, 2008

    How sad. This, right here, is what’s so terribly wrong about these kinds preachers and the message of blind conviction they peddle. A century and a half ago, if your child developed diabetes you had no other option than to beg for them o be saved miraculously while you watched them slowly die. Then, through careful study and a factual understanding of biology, doctors found its cause was insulin deficiency, developed methods to reliably use the insulin of specific animals found to produce a similar variety as a substitute in humans, and every farm-steader in the midwest and factory worker could buy it for their children through a Sears-Roebuck catalogue. People declared it a godsend; a miracle, and without science, without a dispassionate, unbiased approach to the basic facts of life, it would never have been possible.

    Now fanatics like this internet preacher are so afraid of losing ground to science, as if it were a competition to begin with, that they denounce and defame its products at every turn, going so far as to pressure their followers to let their children die rather than accept the simple, cheap, inconsequential aid necessary to save their lives. How many mothers and fathers have cried over their dead children throughout the millennia because of this disease? How does faith justify this cruel sacrifice, letting one’s child needlessly die to bolster some pastor’s message?

  26. #26 Marcus Ranum
    April 29, 2008

    Jim RL writes:
    That’s in poor taste. The young girl that died didn’t do anything to deserve idiot parents who would watch her slowly waste away. It’s a tragic case of where beleiving in superstitions takes you.

    The young girl didn’t deserve anything – nobody does – but her parents did the equivalent of sawing off one of the branches of their genetic legacy while they were sitting on it.

    All deaths are tragic, ultimately. And meaningless. Sorry you find reality in poor taste.

  27. #27 Ryan F Stello
    April 29, 2008

    I’d at first be tempted to convince them that treating physical ailments isn’t contradictory with their belief that it was a ‘spiritual attack’, but these kinds of people are too far gone.

    I’m sure we’re going to get a few lurkers coming out and saying this a case of ‘just a few bad seeds’, and it’s partially true, but I have a preemptive message for them:

    The criminal negligence of the parents is appalling and extreme and (hopefully) rare, but the attitude that facilitated this wasn’t just the clear lack of compassion, it was also the belief that spirituality trumps physical reality, and its this attitude that has led to so much ruin in people’s lives.

    I’m not trying to make a case for religions harm, since I know you find it disrespectful, but ask yourselves this: If your spiritual quest puts you at odds with the world around you, how do you expect to do good?

  28. #28 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    From the OP:

    The Neumanns have three other children. They’ve been taken away from them.

    Good. And I can only hope the death of their sister has at least taught them that what their parents were doing was *wrong*. Kids tend to naturally want to love their parents and believe that their parents will care for them. This natural desire allows abused and neglected kids to make up all sorts of excuses for their parents’ behavior, and it’s even worse when there’s a built in religious justification for that abuse and neglect. The possibility that these kids could grow up thinking that their sister died because she wasn’t faithful enough, or because they didn’t pray hard enough, or because god decided it was “her time”, or for any other reason than that their parents were neglectful, delusional, and unfit to have children is really saddening.

  29. #29 Marcus Ranum
    April 29, 2008

    Dennis N writes:
    I’m gonna have a few pointed questions for the speaker (this charlatan). Anyone have any studies/examples that I can bring to give me for support (besides basic frickin’ common sense)?

    You can ask him about the effectiveness of the long-running British Experiement On Prayer. Namely, millions of brits praying “God Save The Queen” daily. You could note that god has not chosen to save any of the prior kings or queens, in spite of centuries of prayer. :)

  30. #30 Olorin
    April 29, 2008

    This reminds me of the story about a man trapped on a rooftop in a flood. A neighbor came by on a raft he had made and offered to rescue the man. “No,” he said; “God will save me.” Later, firemen in a rescue boat offered to take him. “No,” he replied; “God will save me.” Finally, a helicopter swung him a rope to climb aboard. Same answer.

    Of course, the man ultimately drowned. When he approached St. Peter at the pearly gates, he cried, “Why didn’t God save me?” St. Peter answered, “Well, He did send two boats and a helicopter.”

  31. #31 Jex
    April 29, 2008

    Wow.
    Wow. Wow. Wow.
    This kind of story makes me so very scared of the idea that Australia is turning into Mini’Merica (We haven’t managed to outlaw Scamology. Bad sign I think.) Wasn’t there some awesome study which found that prayer actually was consistent with increased fatalities, rather than helped people heal?
    What makes me emotionally ambivalent and frustrated is the fact that these people will now believe that their daughter is happy and healthy and ‘alive’ in Heaven. :(

  32. #32 CleveDan
    April 29, 2008

    “Dale Neumann told investigators that “given the same set of circumstances with another child, he would not waiver in his faith and confidence in the healing power of prayer,” according to the interview statement.”

    maybe he is setting up an insanity defense

  33. #33 Dan
    April 29, 2008

    From the link Moggie provided:

    Press Release from Unleavened Bread Ministries Regarding the Death of 11-Year-Old Madeline Kara Neumann and Our Experience with Her Parents, Dale and Leilani

    David Eells – 3/27/08

    We at UBM would like to clear up some misconceptions from what we know, which is little.

    No shit, Sherlock. If you actually did know something, your children wouldn’t be dying.

  34. #34 Raynfala
    April 29, 2008

    <snarky&gt

    I hope the parent’s position is upheld. Really, I do. I hope the court comes right out and says that prayer is an allowable form of treatment.

    Then, I hope on that very same day, the police arrest every single member and/or supporter of the Unleavened Bread Ministries on charges of manslaughter by depraved indifference. The Neumanns emailed the ministry for help in a life-or-death situation, but were obviously shunned. Because, after all, if prayer really, really works, then we can conclude that the members of U.B.M. didn’t follow through. Had they prayed (and in earnest), the girl would’ve been walking around alive, chipper and happy this very day.

    </snarky&gt

  35. #35 Numerical Thief
    April 29, 2008

    @ 18

    That press release is terrifying. They actually compare themselves to doctors and then ask for the same respect that doctors get despite “medical mistakes” that kill “hundreds of thousands each year”. GAH! First off, I’m almost certain it’s not “hundreds of thousands” that die of medical mistakes. Certainly a lot of people die in hospitals. Multiple heart attacks, strokes, cancer, immune compromised patients, there’s huge lists of things doctors have little ability to fix or deal with because the technology and research isn’t done yet. Yet they still do what they can, and I’ll be damned if “prayer” deserves even lip service as a method of healing stacked up beside real, evidence-based medicine.

    Oh the Stupid, it burns bright and hot! Incoherent rage seems to be the only option when faced with such.

  36. #36 Dan
    April 29, 2008

    Ooops… I kind of borked the HTML tags in my previous comment. But, I think you can easily see where their madness ends and my anger begins.

  37. #37 mcow
    April 29, 2008

    MaqrMarcus Ranum:

    It’s true that it’s “evolution in action” but so is anything that affects the number of times an organism (or its offspring, or even its relatives) reproduce and with whom. In other words, just about everything involving an organism is “evolution in action”.

    A better statement would be that it’s natural selection in action. Even there, you’re getting dangerously close to social darwinism. That these things happen in nature does not make them good.

    I also seriously doubt that there is some genetic difference between Dale Neumann and you or me that makes him capable of this atrocity whereas we are not. What’s more likely is that this is a behavior brought about by miseducation and indoctrination. That’s no defense of his actions, but it means that evolution would be a very slow remedy.

    Lastly, please note that he has three surviving children.

  38. #38 Kristy
    April 29, 2008

    I may be wrong, but didn’t the father contradict his “prayer healing” statement when he attempted CPR? CPR is a considered an emergency medical procedure.

  39. #39 Chris
    April 29, 2008

    Now why does this article remind me of this one?

  40. #40 Julian
    April 29, 2008

    On the legal issue, their criminal culpability should be clear. As you say, if a neo-pagan Odin worshipper were to stake someone out on the sea shore in the “bloody eagle” they’d be arrested in a heart-beat. If a Muslim Shia community were to flagellate themselves and their children up and down the street most of the day as some do in other parts of the world on the anniversary of Ali’s death, they’d be dragged in on charges of child abuse. Even the practice of animal sacrifice associated with Santeria is significantly curtailed in the United States on the grounds of public health. In fact, the Supreme Court stated clearly in Employment Division v. Smith (1990) that one’s free exercise rights do not supersede government’s legitimate right to enforce laws passed for the public good (in this case a drug ban, though to argue it can apply to that and not cover this would be the height of hypocrisy).

    However, this is the United States, and majority European Christian sects that largely accept conventional protestant dogma get a pass. If these parents were of any other religion, they’d surely be facing jail time, at the very least, but because they’re “Christian Scientists” who believe in faith healing, you can never be sure if a prosecution will succeed.

  41. #41 jex
    April 29, 2008

    #34, Raynfala – and maybe some xtians could be charged with dooming me to hell seeing as how they didn’t work hard enough to convert me? Or, we could string up our disabled on the grounds that Gawd didn’t answer their prayers to be healthy, for some undeniably valid reason, presumably because they are bad and evil? All sorts of fun to be had if you accept the premise that prayer works. I had an xtian friend tell me, in not so many words, that my sister had lupus and had been raped (on her way home from school) because I was an athiest. Sick, Sick, Sick thinking.

  42. #42 kingjoebob
    April 29, 2008

    This is tragic but all too common.

    I’m reminded of the man who was caught in a flood:
    First the police told him to evacuate and he replied:”The Lord will save me.”
    Next a group in a boat came by and asked if he needed help and he replied:”The Lord will save me.”
    After climbing to his roof a helicopter came by and he replied:”The Lord will save me.” He later died and when he met his maker he asked why did you not save me and God replied: ” I sent the police to warn you, a boat to help you and a helicopter to pick you up what more did you want? ”

    It is very sad that some believe that the only way to have faith is to shun science and medicine.

  43. #43 Orac
    April 29, 2008

    In other words, the religious have an exemption that allows them to murder their children

    Actually this is true not just in Wisconsin, but in most states, 39 the last time I checked. I saw this story this morning before I left for work and was planning on writing about this case tonight for tomorrow. I was going to discuss some of the religious exemptions. (Plug, plug, even though PZ obviously beat me to this one…)

  44. #44 Dennis N
    April 29, 2008

    When I heard Dale and Leilani were being investigated, I thought, how sad, since authorities don’t investigate the people who put their trust in doctors whose family members die by the hundreds of thousands from medical mistakes every year, according the AMA’s own admission. We know that the doctors do the best they can with what they have and we do not condemn them. Christians would like the same consideration.

    The link below shows that a search brought up 172 children who died in 20 years of “Religious Medical Neglect”(?) But it doesn’t come close to 250,000 (plus 238,337 in the Medicare system) by malpractice of the medical establishment. Common sense tells us that it’s neglect if you don’t trust in God.

    http://friendlyatheist.com/2008/01/03/religion-based-medical-neglect/

    They actually linked to friendlyatheist.com. I can only hope people who know them go there and read it.

  45. #45 Dennis N
    April 29, 2008

    Wow, I missed this gem:

    When the mark of the beast comes and you don’t take that chip in your hand and forehead you will not be able to pay for meds or doctors; then you will be deemed negligent and your children will be taken away.

  46. #46 Kitty
    April 29, 2008

    “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children.” — Nelson Mandela

    For “society” substitute sect. Any one will do.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9521945

  47. #47 Steve
    April 29, 2008

    This is what “respecting other’s beliefs” gets us. We (society) tried to stay out of it by saying “it’s what they believe” – as though insanity is something that should be nurtured and protected. The result is that we have a child, needlessly dead, that could have been saved *easily* with modern medicine.

    Respect your beliefs? No. Not anymore. Your beliefs are dangerous to yourselves, to your children, to the world, and I’ll not have them any longer.

    The most horrifying thing of all is that so many people will explain this away and keep on believing that magical fairies will take care of their every need.

  48. #48 Tulse
    April 29, 2008

    the father “said he remained confident and steadfast in his belief that prayer would heal Madeline”

    God did hear the father’s prayer — he had Banting and Best discover insulin. It’s a shame the father wasn’t listening properly.

    I don’t understand fundies. They certainly don’t think they can survive without food, even though it is produced through modern scientific methods. They don’t refuse to live in houses heated and cooled through technology. Why would they view sickness as something different than hunger or shelter? Surely if one has faith that sickness will be cured, one should also have faith that hunger will be assuaged and that one will be impervious to cold and heat. Right?

  49. #49 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    #43 Dennis N quoted —

    Common sense tells us that it’s neglect if you don’t trust in God.

    Huh?

    Can someone please explain how “common sense” tells us this?

    *Science*, not *god* is why life spans have more than tripled since biblical times. (Oh wait…they actually believe people lived for 900+ years in Old Testament times…crap….)

  50. #50 Dan
    April 29, 2008

    It’s difficult to believe that other family members didn’t turn them in to social services much sooner. A grandmother eventually did, but too late to help.
    http://www.todaystmj4.com/news/local/18336904.html

  51. #51 Thomas J. Theobald
    April 29, 2008

    Indeed any calling of 911, CPR, or other non-acceptance of the death of their child is counter to their faith.

    Kid dead – “God” must have willed it. That they did anything at all, even pray, would indicate a desire in contrast with their “God’s plan”.

    So not only insane, stupid, and criminally negligent, but heretical as well.

    Way to f#&$ up completely, Neumann family!

    T

  52. #52 Peter Mc
    April 29, 2008

    Dunno, Marcus no 29. The last Queen did OK, reached 102 although that was often put down to the preservative powers of heroic quantites of gin. This one shows no signs of frailty despite topping 80.

    Mind you, if your son and heir was a head-the-ball who talks to plants, who wished on an unencrypted cellphone he was a tampon and believes in every kind of woo-istic medicine going, you might be inclined to hang around for the sake of the crown, singing ‘Gawd save yaw gray-shus me!’ in the hope it works.

  53. #53 Dennis N
    April 29, 2008

    Even within their own framework, I find it very selfish of them to deny her treatment. If I delusionally felt that treating my child and lacking faith would damn me, I would still do it; I would put my child first.

  54. #54 House on Fire
    April 29, 2008

    mcow, MaqrMarcus Ranum:

    It’s natural selection in action, combined with “nurture”al selection if you will. For humans rationality is an acquired trait, but a necessary one in the modern era. Human nurturing strategies that stunt rational development diminish the reproductive capacity of the group that practices them. Call that social darwinism if you must.

  55. #55 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    Does anyone else think it’s about time some pro bono lawyer took these “religious freedom” child abuse protection laws to the Supreme Court? There must be someone willing to do it. I would, if I were a lawyer….

    Seriously. If anyone knows of a good organization to contact about this, I might actually take some good ol’ slacktivist action. Even if the case loses, it’s important that this issue not be ignored.

  56. #56 andrew
    April 29, 2008

    Fucking people, wtf. Pisses me off.

  57. #57 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 29, 2008

    OH NOES!

    Family May Be Charged with the Crime of Praying!

    Better call davescot and the marines.

  58. #58 Mold
    April 29, 2008

    If you are a competent adult, the medical professional has a duty to follow your wishes about care. Even if it means you die. Refuse a blood transfusion, surgery, chemo, rad, and I’ll watch your over-21 body die. Fine.

    Children have no such avenue. They are totally dependent upon adults to provide and the kids are very, very trusting. One could tell little girls that the only way to Heaven is through sex with pervy old men. The kids will believe this. We taught kindergarten students the proper way to wash hands is to wash for as long as it takes them to sing ‘Happy Birthday’. All day long the kids washed hands while singing.

  59. #59 Tophe
    April 29, 2008

    Perhaps Ben Stein simply forgot a word and meant to say “Christian Science leads to killing people.”

  60. #60 Hank Fox
    April 29, 2008

    #28

    And I can only hope the death of their sister has at least taught them that what their parents were doing was *wrong*.

    I’m betting it will work the exact opposite. Both the children and parents will now believe even MORE strongly in what they did.

    Killing the girl has put a roadblock in the path of seeing it any other way. To see prayer as useless, they also have to admit that their daughter/sister was essentially murdered by neglect. To avoid consciously realizing that, they’ll do almost anything.

    That’s also what was behind the father saying he’d do it again the same way. To change his mind, he has to admit that he’s done something wrong that would CAUSE him to change his mind.

    After you’ve killed your daughter, you can either continue in this staunch faith mode, or resign yourself to extreme, corrosive lifelong guilt. Either way, you’re screwed, but the lie lets you go on pretending — lets you GO ON.

    I used to wonder why the parents of kids killed in Iraq (or Vietnam) were such strong supporters of the war. I think it’s this same reason.

    They’re frozen in place by the tsunami of guilt that will smash into them the second they admit they were anything but 100% right.

  61. #61 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    @#5 Rev. BigDumbChimp —

    Wow. That website is chock full of true crazy-people illogic, with gems like:

    While it is true that God created the world and all that is in it, including doctors, we must note: Jesus never sent anyone to a doctor or a hospital. Jesus offered healing by one means only! Healing was by faith. Yes, God created doctors but only to give man a choice between man’s ways — the doctor — or His way — faith! When we don’t have faith we need the doctor and it’s obvious that most want-to-be Christians need the doctors because they have no faith in God; their faith is in man. God created good and evil. Witchcraft can heal also. Should Christians also seek witches?

    I honestly can say I’d never heard *that* particular “argument” before.

  62. #62 Physicalist
    April 29, 2008

    The retribution theory of disease in action. Next they’ll want it taught in schools (“Teach the Controversy”), and Ben Stein will be making a movie about how you get expelled from med school for even thinking that sin might be the cause of diabetes.

    Thank FSM that the authorities are stepping it. Next time someone tells you that religious ignorance is bliss, remember to point out the cost of that ignorance.

  63. #63 Dennis N
    April 29, 2008

    I think 18 would be more reasonable than 21.

  64. #64 Mena
    April 29, 2008

    I take better care of my plants than these people did with their daughter. Maybe they are both dyslexic and think that it’s the 12th century and not the 21st.

  65. #65 Andrew
    April 29, 2008

    Respect your beliefs? No. Not anymore. Your beliefs are dangerous to yourselves, to your children, to the world, and I’ll not have them any longer.

    Screw dangerous — what happened to not respecting beliefs purely on the basis that they’re wrong?

  66. #66 illusory tenant
    April 29, 2008

    Wisconsin law, Section 948.04 (6) …

    I don’t believe there is any such thing as § 948.04(6).

  67. #67 Michelle
    April 29, 2008

    @#2 “Think of it as evolution in action”

    I can’t. I seriously can’t put it so coldly. A girl died. All that happened was that she was born to unfit parents… who should’ve been removed from the gene pool before they gave birth, true. But their innocent girl still died.

    Too bad I’m against death penalty. Can’t make exceptions, even for motherfuckers like these. They should forever rot in jail though. And be paraded around as monsters. Yea, make a circus out of them. Humiliate them. And anyone else who does this shit.

  68. #68 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    @#59 Hank Fox —

    Well, that was depressing.

    But unfortunately probably true….

  69. #69 wÒÓ†
    April 29, 2008
  70. #70 techskeptic
    April 29, 2008

    @Dennis #11,

    Skeptico has covered many studies about how prayer doesnt work (just search for “prayer”). My personal favorite is the one done by the Templeton foundation that showed prayer does nothing. i like it because it was a pretty well controlled study, had lots of participants and was funded (to the tune of 2.4 million dollars) by a foundation that promotes spirituality.

  71. #71 Jason Failes
    April 29, 2008

    Hank Fox @#59

    Correct, you are basically describing cognitive dissonance:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

  72. #72 SteveWH
    April 29, 2008

    @ drew (#13, 20)
    You may be thinking of 1944’s Prince v Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in which the Supreme Court ruled that Jehovah’s Witnesses have the right to sacrifice their lives for religious reasons, they do not have the right to sacrifice the lives of their children for those same reasons.

    The right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death [. . .] Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves.

    Also, in 1990, the Supreme Court ruled (in the Nancy Cruzan case) that a competent adult can refuse life-saving treatment. The Cruzan decision doesn’t say anything about children specifically, although if I recall correctly, it does address some questions about patients who have become legally incompetent.

  73. #73 Kseniya
    April 29, 2008

    Funny. Prayer never worked for me, either, when a life was at stake. More than coincidence?

  74. #74 locksmyth
    April 29, 2008

    @ #31
    The study found prayer only had effect if the recipient knew of the prayer and that lead to an increase in complications and fatalities.

    I blogged about this family a few weeks ago at that time the police were not going to take the other children out of their custody because they couldn’t see any evidence of abuse. A child is effectively starved to death and they cannot see any evidence of abuse. This country and everyone in it needs to remove their god goggles and recognize the shielding and enablement they provide to nuts like these.

  75. #75 Ryan
    April 29, 2008

    This kind of denial leads to deaths just so that people don’t have to face the truth.

  76. #76 Numerical Thief
    April 29, 2008

    @ #60

    Come on down today to Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax’s Wonderful World of Witchcraft for all your Cancer, AIDS, and Diabetes needs!

    Actually, I think Esme would just hit you with a stick and tell you to go to the doctor…

  77. #77 Dennis N
    April 29, 2008

    This country and everyone in it needs to remove their god goggles

    But my god goggles give me the special ability to block out transitional forms!

  78. #78 M. Robert Bond
    April 29, 2008

    Oh, come on, PZ. It was her time. If they’d treated her diabetes, she would’ve just gotten hit by a car instead or something, and you can’t disprove that.

  79. #79 eewolf
    April 29, 2008

    The link below shows that a search brought up 172 children who died in 20 years of “Religious Medical Neglect”(?) But it doesn’t come close to 250,000 (plus 238,337 in the Medicare system) by malpractice of the medical establishment. Common sense tells us that it’s neglect if you don’t trust in God.

    So this fuckwit wants to compare his “prayer-healing” with modern medicine? Easy for him since he has no liability. If he wants to play this game he should be liable then. His malpractice insurance would be astronomical. Note: I noticed his web page took much care to separate himself from the couple in question. Fuckin’ coward.

    Since medical doctors are required to carry insurance, this should be the case with all these other charlatans.

  80. #80 leeleeone
    April 29, 2008

    Murder by any other name is still murder: “To kill intentionally with premeditation.”

    Period.

    I hold no sympathy nor empathy for the parents of this child.

    They murdered their daughter.

    The charges they are facing in the State of Wisconsin are the least that they should be charged with.

    These parents are not mentally ill. I am sick and tired of excuses for actions taken based upon “religion.” Religiosity is not a mental illness. It is a choice.

    These parents murdered their daughter.

    They murdered their daughter willfully and intentionally.

  81. #81 Kitty
    April 29, 2008

    Would someone please explain a point of American law to me?

    Is this sort of thing a crime covered under State or Federal law?

    Could this be a criminal act in one State but not another?

  82. #82 Bryn
    April 29, 2008

    @ #5 – I’m waiting for, “They’re not *TRUE Christians!” Ugh. Can’t we come up with a test people have to take before they can become parents. And I’d trust Granny Weatherwax loooong before I’d trust that bunch of loons.

  83. #83 Hank Fox
    April 29, 2008

    I think homicide/manslaughter is all regulated at the state level, unless the person you kill is a federal officer, or maybe you cross state lines in order to do it.

  84. #84 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    The link below shows that a search brought up 172 children who died in 20 years of “Religious Medical Neglect”(?) But it doesn’t come close to 250,000 (plus 238,337 in the Medicare system) by malpractice of the medical establishment. Common sense tells us that it’s neglect if you don’t trust in God.

    Common sense tells me that if you were a statistician, you’d be laughed at and fired in an instant, because you seem to think that in two groups of very different sample size (much more medical care going on than faith healing, thank FSM), it is a good idea to use absolute numbers rather than percentages. Even if these numbers are accurate, and I really doubt that, your use of statistics is meaningless and made of FAIL.

  85. #85 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    @#82 Hank Fox —

    I think homicide/manslaughter is all regulated at the state level, unless the person you kill is a federal officer, or maybe you cross state lines in order to do it.

    I’m pretty sure you’re right on this, but I also think there are certain mandates in Federal law that limit states’ discretion. I would hope this sort of thing is covered under that…if not, it should be.

  86. #86 rich (richmanwisco)
    April 29, 2008

    God thought my father’s work was complete when he was taken away from an aspiring career as a pilot (in a plane crash) at the age of 26. God thought my mother’s work was complete when he gave her cancer and let her die a slow, agonizing death at the age of 61.

    Yep, nothing left for my parents to do, so god took them away.

    Sounds reasonable to me.

  87. #87 flame821
    April 29, 2008

    Okay, I was curious so I did a google on Wisconson Law, Section 948.04 (6). There doesn’t appear to be any, but I just did a quick glance over. I did find a few 948.04 regarding lasting harm and mental harm though.
    google search

  88. #88 June
    April 29, 2008

    With good legal counsel, these parents may well go free. Under the common law (which may be modified by statute locally), a crime requires both criminal intent and action. These parents had no intent to kill their child. Quite the opposite, they did only what they were taught to do by their religious leaders, encouraged by their Bible, approved by tradition, praised by their community, supported by the state, financed with tax exemptions, and legalized by courts that sanctify the role of the parent.

    The true horror of stories like this one is the fact that we as a nation do nothing to stop such tragedies.

  89. #89 Dennis N
    April 29, 2008

    Actually June #87,

    It says they didn’t belong to a church and were starting their own ministry and in local cafe. These were their own traditions, and they were their own leaders.

  90. #90 mostlywater
    April 29, 2008

    concentrated stupid so dense that it has turned into evil

    Perfected summarized, in a manner my seething apoplexy prevents.

  91. #91 Monado in Toronto again
    April 29, 2008

    Dennis, you might just point out to the Christian Scientists that all the love and prayer and faith in the world didn’t save ANY children from diabetes until Banting, Best, MacLeod and Cudlip isolated insulin and gave it to the medical profession.

  92. #92 Marcus Ranum
    April 29, 2008

    Michelle writes:
    I can’t. I seriously can’t put it so coldly. A girl died. All that happened was that she was born to unfit parents… who should’ve been removed from the gene pool before they gave birth, true. But their innocent girl still died.

    I see it as no different from being born in a war-zone or any of the myriad misfortunes of time and place that can kill an uninvolved bystander. It’s awful, and it’s especially awful for the victim, but – seriously – if we’re not ascribing events to a supreme all powerful evil being, then it’s all randomness. If you want to look for an organizing principle or meaning behind this tragedy, “evolution in action” (Nitpickers: includes natural selection) is all that’s left for the atheist. Am I being “cold”? I’m speaking about reality. Reality is a very cold hard place.

  93. #93 Ryan F Stello
    April 29, 2008

    Etha (#83) said,

    Even if these numbers are accurate, and I really doubt that, your use of statistics is meaningless and made of FAIL.

    I think you can reach those numbers if you lump together all medical deaths from untreatable illnesses, from the percentage of people that could not be treated normally, from deaths by accident as well as cases of criminal malpractice/negligence.

    To them, they don’t get that only the criminal negligence numbers should be compared, as that is what the case is, and even then, there’s no success rate on their side to create percentages.

    Bastards.

  94. #94 Inoculated Mind
    April 29, 2008

    Jeez, pray to god, but after you’ve rowed away from the freaking rocks!

    This quote is enough to take the kids away to someone more responsible:
    “given the same set of circumstances with another child, he would not waiver in his faith and confidence in the healing power of prayer,”
    I wonder if that could be legally considered a threat of willful neglect for future problems?

  95. #95 Alex
    April 29, 2008

    The law seems to me to apply to adults, a Jehovahs Witness type thing where a person is not obliged to accept medical intervention, which, if someone is dumb enough, I’m fine with. While I agree parents should have certain freedoms in raising their children, I do not think that freedom is of an equal standing with their personal freedom, hence they should not under this law be able to abuse their children, even if they’re willing to undergo that abuse themself.

    This law does however open up the possibility of suicide by prayer.

  96. #96 flame821
    April 29, 2008

    Big Shock!!! the preacher man appears to be lying about such a law existing. I found the most recent laws for Wisconsin on PDT.

    Wisconsin State Laws, Chapter 948, Crimes against Children

  97. #97 Greg
    April 29, 2008

    Hmm, Pastor Bob claims the Neumanns are being charged for praying. I’m sorry Pastor Bob. That isn’t correct. They are being charged with standing by watching their daughter die a slow painful death.

  98. #98 sudo stfu
    April 29, 2008

    Reckless manslaughter? That’s a sick joke.

    The parents prevented the kid from getting help — no calls to the doctor, the hospital, or 911. The parents prevented the kid from leaving the house — going to a friend, neighbor, or relative, for help.

    Depriving her of the insulin needed for her survival is no different from depriving her of food, water, or air. They may as well have buried her alive and waited for her to die from asphyxiation.

    They MURDERED her. Got that? And it wasn’t a painless murder. Let’s be honest, this was TORTURE-MURDER.

    Shame on anybody who tries to shade the truth.

  99. #99 cicely
    April 29, 2008

    mcow @ 37 and michelle @ 66;

    It’s possible that MaqrMarcus (#2) may not meant to seem either as matter-of-fact or as callous as you may think. “Think of it as evolution in action” may be a reference to Nivens’ Oath of Fealty, where it was first made as an off-hand comment about a group of eco-terrorist wannabes being killed in breaching an arcology’s security, that was then taken up as a sort of slogan in the PR “war” about the cultural differences between the arcology inhabitants and…well, I guess everyone who didn’t live in an arcology.

    Just for what it’s worth.

  100. #100 Bobby
    April 29, 2008

    OK, I don’t want to go through 80+ posts to check if this has been brought up…

    “I asked Kara if she loved Jesus and she shook her head yes.”

    WTF???

    Now I don’t know if there is in fact an american idiom where this makes sense (I’m German). But so far I’ve only seen the phrase “shake one’s head no”. Was this in fact the poor child’s last plea for her idiot parents to see reason and call for medical help?

    That would make the whole story even more horrifying than it is now.

    Hopefully it is only a typo in the report.

  101. #101 TheZog
    April 29, 2008

    Let’s not confuse the legal issues here. First and foremost, these parents are not being charged under the section that contains the “healing by prayer alone” exception. The parents are being charged with Second Degree Reckless Manslaughter, an entirely different criminal offense. Under Wisconsin law, the mental state of recklessness is defined as “the actor creates an unreasonable and substantial risk of bodily harm or death and is aware of that risk.” The risk must be objectively unreasonable and substantial and the actor must subjectively be aware of it. Therefore, it’s a higher bar to meet for the prosecution than the child abuse statute, but it does not contain the exception.

    Also, as for #39, this is not a free exercise problem. If the exception were to apply, it is not a matter of someone being deprived of a right. In this case, the legislature has given a religious-exercise exception to a law when it need not do so. Several states do not have such an exception, and I know of no case in which parents have challenged the law, as applied to them, as a violation of their Free Exercise rights since it did not contain an exception.

  102. #102 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 29, 2008

    I thought it was a spiritual attack.

    At what point should stupidity be punished?

    I think this is it. Reckless manslaughter sounds about right.

    To the defendants, I recommend a plea for insanity. Perhaps folie à deux.

    No law of this state regulating the practice of medicine and surgery may be construed to interfere with the practice of Christian Science. A person who elects Christian Science treatment in lieu of medical or surgical treatment for the cure of disease may not be compelled to submit to medical or surgical treatment.

    In other words, the religious have an exemption that allows them to murder their children.

    Nope. This gives separate treatment to either the Church of Christ, Scientist, or (less likely) Christianity as a whole, distinguishing it from all other religions. Unconstitutional.

    Namely, millions of brits praying “God Save The Queen” daily. You could note that god has not chosen to save any of the prior kings or queens, in spite of centuries of prayer. :)

    This was first noticed in the late 19th century, and the statistics were done: the royal family does not even live longer, on average, than the rest of the upper class.

    That press release is terrifying. They actually compare themselves to doctors and then ask for the same respect that doctors get despite “medical mistakes” that kill “hundreds of thousands each year”. GAH!

    Don’t they even notice that they’re blaming this “medical mistake” on God?

    Surely if one has faith that sickness will be cured, one should also have faith that hunger will be assuaged and that one will be impervious to cold and heat. Right?

    Logical.

    Which requires a capability for logical thinking.

  103. #103 Monado in Toronto again
    April 29, 2008

    From the point of view of the cult leaders, it’s sound psychology for cementing membership in the cult. Once you’ve let one of your beloved children die while waiting for a miracle, you’re never going to renounce membership because that would mean realizing that you let one of your beloved children die needlessly. And that would be intolerable.

  104. #104 Tony P
    April 29, 2008

    The bright side of this is that it’s a genetic dead end. Oh there are the other kids but I doubt these religious idiots will ever see them again.

  105. #105 TheZog
    April 29, 2008

    #97, while I share your degree of disgust, the way Modern Criminal Codes operate prevents the parents from being charged with Murder as I interpret your meaning, 1st degree murder. Conviction of such a charge typically requires purposefulness, premeditation, or some equivalent state of mind. The parents in this case clearly do not meet that mens rea since their actions were not motivated by a desire to kill their daughter. Recklessness seems to fit a bit better (see my post #100 for an explanation), but even that is not a slam dunk.

  106. #106 MarkW
    April 29, 2008

    I’ve not read through all the comments, so I don’t know if anyone’s pointed this out:

    I asked Kara if she loved Jesus and she shook her head yes.

    Um. I thought shaking your head means no. Nodding your head means yes.

    Or is this just another USAian idiom that doesn’t travel well across the Atlantic?

  107. #107 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    Re: my #83 on statistics —

    As another example (and I know I’m preaching to the choir here…), only about 300 people die each year of Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease. By comparison, there are about 36,000 cases of flu-related deaths each year.

    By crazy faith healer logic, this means that the flu is more deadly than CJD. But in actuality, CJD is fatal in 100% of sufferers, whereas the 36,000 cases of flu-related deaths — while tragic — are a very, very small percentage of the total cases of the flu each year.

  108. #108 Lee Brimmicombe-Wood
    April 29, 2008

    MaqrMarcus Ranum @ #2

    Think of it as evolution in action.

    I’d rather not. That is the kind of callous social Darwinistic apopthegm that those truthless godly try to stick on us atheists. I reject it. This girl was eminently savable and her parents are culpable for her death.

    Marcus Ranum @ #29

    Namely, millions of brits praying “God Save The Queen” daily.

    Sorry, old chap. I don’t believe this is widespread practice in this country.

  109. #109 Pistol Pete
    April 29, 2008

    Prayer is not a guaranteed magical form of treatment. At the same time, it can and does promote wellness when used in conjunction with other healing arts within the medical field.

  110. #110 TheZog
    April 29, 2008

    As for #101 and others who seem to think that the exception is unconstitutional since it appears to apply to only Christian Scientists or Christians more generally, don’t think that the law would be struck down totally by a court because of this. If someone of another faith sought safeharbor in the exception and claimed that the law as applied to them was a violation of Equal Protection, the law would simply be extended to that person. This could happen on another ground since favoring one religion over another is nearly per se a violation of the Establishment Clause. Again, the court would simply extend application of the law to that particular defendant and avoid the Constitutional issue.

    The only way the law could be struck down by a court is if an abused child challenged it as a violation of the Establishment Clause. Someone not affected by the operation of the law would not have standing to bring a challenge. So you would basically need a child challenging his/her parents. Even then it would be a tough hill to climb, especially given the current composition of our Court.

  111. #111 Lorax
    April 29, 2008

    A call to fundies everywhere:
    You believe heaven is paradise. You believe the world is an evil place where satan will tempt your children with GTAIV and premarital relations (not unlike the ones you had?). Take the fundie way out: 1. kill your children, they’ll be in a better place. Right? 2. Then simply pray for forgiveness (the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card) to restore your place in heaven. 3. Jump in front of an oncoming train and pray for it to stop in time. Since you prayed and have faith, this cannot be considered suicide, so you’re still on the heaven expressway. If it stops, god has a plan for you; if not, god misses you and wants to hang out.
    Remember heaven is a better place, strive to get there as quickly as possible. But please try not to take the rest of us with you.

  112. #112 raven
    April 29, 2008

    The link below shows that a search brought up 172 children who died in 20 years of “Religious Medical Neglect”(?)

    That number of 172 dead kids in 20 years is an vast underestimate. Most cases of faith healing mediated death aren’t reported as such.

    In fact, these morons try real hard to hide them.

    The actual numbers per year are anyone’s guess, probably 100 or more.

  113. #113 Monado in Toronto again
    April 29, 2008

    They didn’t intend to kill her–that’s why it’s manslaughter and not murder. They should have known better–that’s why it’s reckless manslaughter.

  114. #114 Blaidd Drwg
    April 29, 2008

    Personally, I wouldn’t want these parents to go to jail. That would allow them to ‘serve their punishment’ and bolster their feelings of religious persecution.

    Rather, simply take the three remining children away, and sterilize the parents (both of them), and notify any adoption agencies as to their previous (current) delusional state that allows them to kill children.

  115. #115 TheZog
    April 29, 2008

    Pistol Pete #108, “At the same time, [prayer] can and does promote wellness when used in conjunction with other healing arts within the medical field.”

    Would you please provide us with numbers to back up this claim? In fact, several studies suggest that those who know others are praying for them suffer more complications after surgery, and those who, unbeknownst to them, receive prayer, have roughly the same rate of complications and post-operation troubles as those that don’t receive prayer. Your claim has been debunked several times over, and I assure you this is not the place to assert it again.

  116. #116 Brownian, OM
    April 29, 2008

    Second degree murder?! These fuckers should be shot. Somewhere not immediately fatal but likely to go septic so death comes slowly and painfully. We’ll invite all the faith healers in the world to come by, and the entire Christian community can gather round and have a big fucking pray-off to save their lives, and it’ll be a big fucking ‘my faith is bigger than your faith’ pissing contest, and when these two clowns breathe their last we can put this whole fucking faith healing thing to bed forever.

    Retraction for the cruelty and violence endorsed above to be issued when I’ve calmed down a bit.

  117. #117 EntoAggie
    April 29, 2008

    Okay, seriously, to all the people saying that at least this is a genetic dead end, natural selection in action, and whatnot–you’re being ridiculous.

    It’s not the callousness that gets to me, I honestly don’t care if that’s your way of dealing with things. But get your facts straight!

    The fact is that these cranky ideas are based on faulty reasoning and illogic, fear, and cognitive dissonance, NOT genes. Without getting into a discussion about genetic predisposition, “god genes” and the like, these horrible notions can get by without relying on reproduction alone–that’s one thing that’s so dangerous about them. They can be spread amongst peers, relatives, elders, youngers, strangers, friends, etc. As we have seen, if nothing else this little girl’s death has resulted in the *increased* cloistering of her community and dedication of her parents to choose this practice. She will be replaced by numbers of others who will carry on the same traditions.

    The idea is like a virus–it doesn’t care if it’s hosts survive or die, as long as it is passed along to others. And it will be.

    This is hardly the genetic pruning I think you had in mind.

  118. #118 Amy Larimer
    April 29, 2008

    They will be considered martyrs by their ilk if then end up in jail (and I hope they do). Here in Texas we have a case in which a woman KILLED a foster child by making him drink a concoction of cajun spices as punishment. He died of sodium poisoning. He was four. She was convicted and sent to prison for a long time. Her husband has yet to go to trial. But there is a groundswell of fundy idiots out there calling for her release. They say she was just practicing her religion (which apparently calls for punishing kids in a horrific manner- child abuse at the very least).

  119. #119 Kseniya
    April 29, 2008

    Mark, it’s “shake=no, nod=yes” here in the USA too.

    Regarding genetic dead ends, removing the parents from the gene pool, and all that stuff:

    This is primarily a memetic issue, not a genetic issue. I we wanted to talk gene pool, we’d be praising the parents for allowing their diabetic girl to die before she had a chance to reproduce – but nobody is doing anything remotely like that. I’m very uncomfortable with the notion that the parents shouldn’t have reproduced, or (more to the point) shouldn’t have been allowed to reproduce. Very uncomfortable indeed – as should we all be. Not only is that kind of talk a quote-mine goldmine, it carries the not-so-faint whiff of eugenics and worse.

    Ok, anyways, if I could set a goal myself, it would be to stamp out, by way of education, belief systems that lead to tragically unnecessary deaths like these. I believe it’s possible to use a story like this towards that end without exploiting the girl’s death or her family’s grief. These people have to realize that technology is, even from their point of view, a gift from man’s god-given ingenuity. There’s no hubris in recognizing that. The hubris is in rejecting it, for doing so not only scorns the gift – it spits in the face of the gift-giver. (And that’s true from any perspective, secular or otherwise.)

  120. #120 Lee Brimmicombe-Wood
    April 29, 2008

    I see it as no different from being born in a war-zone or any of the myriad misfortunes of time and place that can kill an uninvolved bystander. It’s awful, and it’s especially awful for the victim, but – seriously – if we’re not ascribing events to a supreme all powerful evil being, then it’s all randomness.

    I can’t say I agree. War may be chaotic, but that’s not the same thing as random. Like any act of human agency it has a vector, it is preventable. The death of this Wisconsin child is definitely something where human agency was a primary contributor.

    If you want to look for an organizing principle or meaning behind this tragedy, “evolution in action” (Nitpickers: includes natural selection) is all that’s left for the atheist.

    No. This is not the organizing principle behind this tragedy. The ‘organizing principle’, insofar as you can call it such, was the inaction of the parents.

    This is not ‘all that’s left for the atheist’. What rot! This is the kind of calumny the Godly wish to paint us with. Rather, Humanist principles stand for compassion, for people doing the best by others. They are about humans organizing to prevent villainy like this.

    Am I being “cold”? I’m speaking about reality. Reality is a very cold hard place.

    I regard your words as callous and inhumane. They smack of that brand of atheism (and theism too) that is drawn towards the corrupting influence of social Darwinism.

    I don’t recognize your cold and hard reality. Very little randomness applies to this case. Rather, the very real and dead hand of religion, perverting the morals of humans, is to blame. If that’s not an organizing principle, I don’t know what is.

  121. #121 Kseniya
    April 29, 2008

    I see that EntoAggie has beaten me to that particular punch… well said.

  122. #122 Muzz
    April 29, 2008

    Wow, I was wondering when something like this would come up around here. This is pretty close to home. I was brought up in a devoutly Christian Science household and while I’m thoroughly lapsed and leaving such a strange environment has caused no end of inner turmoil I do feel obliged to come to their defense to a small extent. The first thing to stress is that they have nothing whatsoever to do with fundamentalist evangelical Christianity, which the a family of the story seem to have been. They’re a weird offshoot founded in Boston in the early/mid 19th century by a woman named Mary Baker Eddy, who is effectively a prophet. She wrote an almost proto-post-structuralist interpretation of the bible that the church follows and because of all this stuff they are as repugnant to mainstream Christians as they are to Atheists (false prophets and all that). The name comes from the times that the church was founded when the term ‘scientific’ was a little more vaguely defined than it is now and basically seems to come from the idea that Eddy’s interpretation of the bible systematises faith and teaches people to be systematic in their own faith (being systematic, as they saw it, being enough to call yourself scientific). Yes it’s confusing and il-named, and no; people within the church generally don’t understand what science means or the real scientific process and misuse it all the time.
    In essence it’s a trancendental religion that believes that material reality isn’t the truth of the universe and through a proper knowledge of god we can escape it, defy it etc etc. It’s kinda like the Gnostic Matrix without the kung fu or levitation or other fun stuff. So yes they eschew medicine and try to heal through prayer, and people have died in years past (might even be some recently, I don’t keep track). They do have a get out clause though; no one is condemmed (no more than implicit self condemantions anyway) for lack of faith and people are always encouraged to ‘be practical’.
    The people in this story are trading on loopholes for Christian Scientists and that sucks (and is probably some shady business from eons ago), but they are not Christian Scientists (there’s nothing apocalyptic or zionist in the faith at all, not a skerek, they don’t believe that stuff). So no one ought to go beating up on them by association over this. When CSers do something dumb, go nuts. I have to say though, that while the whole no medicine thing is dumb and dangerous and a slippery slope, I can say that no one I knew in all my years in that strange little world would have let things get that far. Few people are as fanatical as my mum about CS and if anything even remotely resembling those symptoms were to present; hospital forthwidth. (actually I would hope that if the CS church catches any heat over this they would show some spine and loudly denounce these others, but they’ll probably run for cover, unfortunately)

  123. #123 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    Agh…re: my #106, I meant to say…those statistics for CJD and flu-related deaths are within the US. Obviously both would be larger for the whole world.

  124. #124 negentropyeater
    April 29, 2008

    flame821 #95

    “Big Shock!!! the preacher man appears to be lying about such a law existing.”

    Can we please just establish this second principle :

    Fundies always lie.

  125. #125 spencer
    April 29, 2008

    #9:

    At least these parents were convicted of the crimes that they are so very guilty of, but regrettably this is not always the case.

    No, not convicted. Just charged.

    I am hopeful that they eventually will be convicted, however.

  126. #126 Mindcore
    April 29, 2008

    I think you just put into words the feelings of a lot of people PZ. Thank you, that was cathartic.

  127. #127 Emmet Caulfield
    April 29, 2008

    Wasn’t there some awesome study which found that prayer actually was consistent with increased fatalities, rather than helped people heal?

    Probably the “Harvard Prayer Study” — the Templeton Foundation funded a double-blind study of intercessory prayer for cardiac patients. The group of patients who knew they were being prayed-for had slightly worse outcomes than the two groups who did not know whether they were being prayed-for or not (one actually being prayed for, one not). Not surprisingly, prayer had no effect otherwise.

  128. #128 Ex Partiate
    April 29, 2008

    stupidity has gone to seed and unfortunatly we are not having a crop failure

  129. #129 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    @#109 TheZog —

    The only way the law could be struck down by a court is if an abused child challenged it as a violation of the Establishment Clause. Someone not affected by the operation of the law would not have standing to bring a challenge. So you would basically need a child challenging his/her parents. Even then it would be a tough hill to climb, especially given the current composition of our Court.

    Would it be possible for a lawyer to challenge this law on behalf of a dead child?

    I know the chance of these laws getting to court, much less a court ruling against them, are probably quite slim, but I have to hope…how we can abide such laws in our allegedly progressive, civilized nation is beyond me….

  130. #130 SteveM
    April 29, 2008

    if we’re not ascribing events to a supreme all powerful evil being, then it’s all randomness. If you want to look for an organizing principle or meaning behind this tragedy, “evolution in action” (Nitpickers: includes natural selection) is all that’s left for the atheist.

    I can’t express how completely wrong this statement is. This is not “randomness”, this was a choice by the parents to pray instead of seeking medical help. The alternative to theism is not “everything is random” but personal choice and responsibility.

  131. #131 Jams
    April 29, 2008

    The Argument I haven’t heard yet (if you have, please point me toward it):

    I’ve heard it argued that the clinical definition of delusion doesn’t apply well to most religions. Apparently, the clinical definition excludes any notion that is popularly considered true. While this may be a logical fallacy (argument to popularity), there’s still something to this: I can sort-of understand when someone believes in god, not so much when they imagine that various world leaders are actually aliens.

    If delusion does not apply to individuals whose beliefs are frequently held within their society, couldn’t it be argued that the popularization of false information is a crime in itself. In essence, it normalizes through popularity what would otherwise be considered dangerously delusional. Shouldn’t a conspiracy to normalize delusional behaviour be a crime? Likewise, wouldn’t the support of currently popular but otherwise delusional behaviour also constitute a conspiracy to normalize criminal behaviour?

    It seems to me that this argument isn’t completely divorced from the argument against hate speech.

  132. #132 AndyD
    April 29, 2008

    So they refuse to hire a medical professional to save their daughter’s life but don’t hesitate to hire a legal professional to save their own arses. I feel ill just reading about this level of evil.

    How can people of so much faith not consider the possibility that their own God made doctors available for them to use?

    It reminds me about the joke of the drowning man who refused three offers of assistance because “God will save me”. In heaven, after drowning, he asks God why he didn’t save him and God replied “I sent three people to help and you damn well refused!” But the reality isn’t remotely funny.

    The news link provided in PZ’s story allows for a “letter to the editor”. Hopefully some posters here will avail themselves of that service.

  133. #133 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    @#91 Marcus Ranum —

    If you want to look for an organizing principle or meaning behind this tragedy, “evolution in action” (Nitpickers: includes natural selection) is all that’s left for the atheist. Am I being “cold”? I’m speaking about reality. Reality is a very cold hard place.

    As human beings, we’ve evolved to have reason, self-awareness, and, I hope, a little thing called a *conscience*. These things allow us to create meaning in our lives beyond the simple struggle for individual existence. These things allow us to learn about our animal origins, and also not be beholden to them.

  134. #134 BlueIndependent
    April 29, 2008

    I call BS on the “172 in 20″ claim too. In the last 4 months I’ve heard of AT LEAST 3 cases of prayer-motivated child deaths. There was one here in PHX where an Hispanic couple tried exorcising demons from their sick daughter. There was the very recent case in Oregon, and this one in Wisconsin. And wasn’t there a similar case in Minnesota within the last 6-8 months? Just this news puts the “172 in 20″ claim in serious jeopardy, on top of the fact that all the instances of such abuse go reported as something else.

    But even if “172 in 20″ WAS true, what does that even mean? Comparing prayer healing to people actually doing work trying to help people who are sick? Having the unmitigated gall to say the prayer method is better? I demand defiantly that you right now give me the numbers, because the implications of that statement are as bald-faced as claiming all healthy people are/were/will be saved by prayer (demonstrably false, as I, a healthy atheist sit here and type this), and that everyone who’s sick in a hospital bed is a sad unbeliever. Where are the paryer-based hospitals? Where are the prayer-based urgent care clinics? Where are the prayer pharmacies that one can walk up to in Target and get his dosage of Hail Marys, Our Fathers and Acts of Contrition? Why aren’t catechisms part of the typical medical curriculum? Where are the medical prayer professors and doctors who specialize in the field?

    Oh but the answer to all of these questions is very simple: You would simply tell the sick to walk to their nearest church and kneel. You religious types never cease to amaze sane people with the level of arrogant ignorance you exhibit wantonly and apparently without thought.

  135. #135 jimbob
    April 29, 2008

    This is why the likes of Jefferson used the term “priestcraft.”

  136. #136 K. Signal Eingang
    April 29, 2008

    Just wanted to share something since most of you missed it – “Unleavened Bread Ministries”, aka “AmericasLastDays.com” had a press release about this case on their site when the news first broke. It was apparently written by David Eells, the church head. The opening paragraph, in its entirety, read:

    We at UBM would like to clear up some misconceptions from what we know, which is little. :o)

    I am not making this up. They published a press release about a dead 11-year-old that included a clown-nosed smiley face.

    I guess what blind faith lacks as a moral or behavioral guide it makes up for in sheer class.

  137. #137 Raynfala
    April 29, 2008

    Re: #65 and #86

    It looks like the statute that they’re quoting does actually exist. They just got the index number wrong.

    It’s 948.03(6) (not .04) under “Physical abuse of a child”

    :( :( :(

  138. #138 Bobby
    April 29, 2008

    OK, this might be the wrong place to post this rant but I just can’t help myself, I’m literally sitting at my computer trembling with rage.

    I’M SCARED SHITLESS!!!!

    I am terrified at the idea of nuclear weapons being in the hands of Islamic fanatics like Achmanididshad (don’t give a F**k about spelling). But there’s a much more clear and present danger. And that’s the possibility of a person coming to power in the USA who actually shares the views of poor Kara’s parents. All those polls showing that no person swearing up and down that he believes in the LAWD and the BIBLE would have a chance to be elected president give me the shivers. The USA have already got those nuclear weapons and they are the only nation on earth who have ever actually used them. The thought that a person who shares the views of this poor child’s parents is not all that unlikely, that are laws which even MIGHT their crime be called anything less than murder makes me want to scream.

    Sorry if I stepped on toes, I know that there are a lot of fine minds on Pharyngula, and if you still love your country that’s fine and great. I won’t even take it personally if this post is “censored” or even if I’m cast to the dungeon. But I had to get it of my chest.

    I’M SCARED SHITLESS

  139. #139 spencer
    April 29, 2008

    I think homicide/manslaughter is all regulated at the state level, unless the person you kill is a federal officer, or maybe you cross state lines in order to do it.

    I think there is also an exception for crimes committed on military bases or certain other types of federal property; I base this on memories of a news story about a crazy nurse who was killing patients in the hospital where she worked. As it happened, though she committed these crimes in a non-death penalty state, she was working at a VA hospital or something, and was thus charged federally and therefore faced the death penalty for her crimes.

    But don’t quote me on any of this.

  140. #140 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    April 29, 2008

    Dale Neumann said on the Friday before his daughter died he noticed she was “a little more tired,” but that she ate a McDonald’s meal without any problems. By Saturday he noted the girl “seemed to act like she had a fever” while her breathing seemed a little labored.

    Does anybody else see anything wrong with feeding a McDonald’s meal to a seriously sick child? Was this her last meal? That alone should be grounds for the 7th level of Hell.

    But seriously, the people have been led away by their religion from all understanding of how medical treatment works to heal the body.

    Diagnosis, testing, treatment; what’s evil or Satanic about that? Of course, having read Matt Taibib’s story of how all the demons of the modern world are expelled, these types of parents are not likely to accept any demons for their child. I think that a class action lawsuit against all fundamentalist religions is in order.

  141. #141 Kitty
    April 29, 2008

    Thanks Hank @#82, Etha @#84 and The Zog for helping out on American law.

    But surely there is serious neglect here which could be covered under legislation other than the murder/manslaughter route?

    I know America has never ratified The Convention on the Rights of the Child but there must be some Federal control to ensure that State laws can’t be hijacked by the warped beliefs of the religious right. There would surely be a way to prevent -say- Florida from adopting Sharia Law in the event of mass conversion to Islam!

    Please tell me there is!

    If the following was entrenched in Federal law and, like all other signatories, America was open to international scrutiny to ensure its enforcement, many of the variables you are all discussing would be anachronisms.

    “The Convention sets out these rights in 54 articles and two Optional Protocols. It spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child. Every right spelled out in the Convention is inherent to the human dignity and harmonious development of every child. The Convention protects children’s rights by setting standards in health care; education; and legal, civil and social services.”

    Etha @#128
    “how we can abide such laws in our allegedly progressive, civilized nation is beyond me….”
    It’s beyond me too but the sort of people I find here on this Blog give me hope you’ll change things.

  142. #142 EntoAggie
    April 29, 2008

    I think a lot of us feel that way, Bobby. Perhaps not so much scared shitless (at least for me)..but definitely a sense of ominous, impending doom. And a feeling that no matter how much we try to reason, and discuss, and convince, we have already been overpowered by a gigantic tide powered by glaze-eyed soldiers promised an eternity of love, or power, or or or…..

    It’s like in zombie apocalypse horror. You can build an impenetrable fortress. You can stockpile months (years!) of food, water, ammo, entertainment, and comforts. But it doesn’t matter. Because no matter how long you survive, *they will still be there.* The hungry outnumbering horde, feeling no pain or misery, driven only by the hunger for flesh. And no matter how much you convince yourself that you’ve made it, that you’re a survivor, that there’s a future…every once in a while, you hear a low moan in the dark, and know that they’re still there waiting.

    There’s just nothing you can do. They’ll always be there. It’s horrifying.

    So, perhaps I should stop reading zombie comics.

    Off to work….

  143. #143 TheZog
    April 29, 2008

    Response to Etha Williams’ question at 128,

    Unless the particular jurisdiction, i.e. state, in which the claim was brought speicifically allows for such a claim, then generally no. The concept is known as standing, and generally to have standing, you, or someone legally in privity with you, must have had some sort of injury. In federal courts, the requirement stems from Article III of the Constitution, and most, if not all states, pretty much mirror the same concept. Claims brought on behalf of a deceased person are typically done by parents, spouses or, sometimes, children. Also, they can be brought by the executor/rix of the estate, but that’s only when the claim concerns the estate.

    In a set of facts such as this, if the child died, the parents would bring the claim, but then they’d be challenging a exception to a law that they themselves were charged under. So, as far as I can see, the only way the law could be challenged is by a child who decides to challenge the constitutionality of the law as applied to his/her own parents.

  144. #144 Tulse
    April 29, 2008

    “Big Shock!!! the preacher man appears to be lying about such a law existing.”

    No, just about its designation: the proper numbering is 948.03 (6). If you check in the linked PDF, you’ll find it there. It’s appalling that it exists, but exist it does.

  145. #145 Rieux
    April 29, 2008

    illusory tenant (#65):

    I don’t believe there is any such thing as § 948.04(6).

    That’s right; there appears to be a typo in here somewhere. The correct citation is § 948.03 (6).

    I note, though, that that § 948.03 isn’t a homicide statute; it’s the section defining the crime of “Physical abuse of a child.” According to the reports here, that’s not what these parents are being charged with, so subsection (6) won’t get them off.

    On that point, from June (#87):

    With good legal counsel, these parents may well go free. Under the common law (which may be modified by statute locally), a crime requires both criminal intent and action. These parents had no intent to kill their child. Quite the opposite….

    Not quite. According to the accounts linked from the OP, the parents are being charged with second-degree reckless homicide, which is defined in Wis. Stat. § 948.06. As the Wisconsin Judicial Council noted in 1988 (visible at the statute link), “Second-degree reckless homicide is analogous to the prior offense of homicide by reckless conduct. The revised statute clearly requires proof of a subjective mental state, i.e., criminal recklessness.” Criminal recklessness is an intent–a mens rea. You’re right that the defense is likely to challenge whether the parents had adequate intent, but given that criminal recklessness is the standard, it would seem to me that the prosecution has a reasonably good case.

    Wisconsin statutes (specifically, § 939.24) define criminal recklessness as follows:

    “criminal recklessness” means that the actor creates an unreasonable and substantial risk of death or great bodily harm to another human being and the actor is aware of that risk[.]

    Do you think the Neumanns acted (or failed to act, which in this case is legally equivalent) with criminal recklessness? I sure do.

    – Rieux (IAAL)

  146. #146 Ryan F Stello
    April 29, 2008

    K. Signal Eingang (#135) said,

    I am not making this up. They published a press release about a dead 11-year-old that included a clown-nosed smiley face.

    Did you happen to take a screenshot?
    The press release linked at #18 didn’t have it.

  147. #147 TheZog
    April 29, 2008

    Kitty @ #140, “I know America has never ratified The Convention on the Rights of the Child but there must be some Federal control to ensure that State laws can’t be hijacked by the warped beliefs of the religious right. There would surely be a way to prevent -say- Florida from adopting Sharia Law in the event of mass conversion to Islam!”

    Yes, there is. It’s the First Amendment of our Constitution and it’s proscription against “Congress passing any law recognizing the establishment of religion.” The 14th Amendment has applied the proscription to the states, and it has always applied to all branches of government, not just the legislature. In the scenario that you laid out, Florida adopting Sharia Law, the Establishment Clause would clearly come into play and invalidate such adoption.

    The law in this case, the “healing through prayer alone” exception as I like to call it, is much less obvious. It applies to all religions, despite the text of the Wisconsin law, so it doesn’t recognize one religion over another. Also, it’s a close call on whether or not it is an endorsement of religion over irreligion, which would be a violation of the Clause as well. Regardless of what we think, the current Supreme Court would likely not strike down a law like this.

  148. #148 God is Fictional
    April 29, 2008

    If Dale Neumann is so sure that prayer works then why did he use such a primitive device as email to ask for “emergency prayer”? Surely he could have just prayed for their extra prayers and they would have known.

    So it’s OK to use a computer that was invented by big bad evil science but it is wrong to get medical help for his poor dying daughter!

    The idiocy and hypocracy of these religious fantatics knows no bounds.

  149. #149 PixelFish
    April 29, 2008

    You know every time I read about one of the kids in a religious convictions versus medical treatment issue–THEY ALWAYS DIE. When I lived in Calgary, there was a big deal about (I think it was) a Jehovah’s Witness girl refusing a bone marrow transplant. I’ve seen other articles where the family refuses treatment and the kid dies. It’s starting drive me crazy–like it’s a death sentence the parents can pronounce in the name of martyring themselves on their faith. Blech.

  150. #150 Holydust
    April 29, 2008

    Even when I was Wiccan, we had some “DUH” rules about spells and prayer — do everything you can in your own human way to get something done FIRST. In other words, don’t just pray for someone to get better, don’t work a healing spell to encourage their body to get itself moving… TAKE THAT PERSON TO THE EFFING DOCTOR. It was pretty much a Wiccan standard to, you know, not be an idiot and to take advantage of normal human technology to aid you in problem-solving. It’s a commonly held belief that deity helps those who help themselves.

    Because in reality, there is no deity, and well, nothing is going to happen if you sit around praying for it to. It’s like the old joke — the guy sits on his house in the flood and turns down a life boat and a helicopter to save him because he has put his faith in God to do it. And when he gets to Heaven, God says, “I sent you a boat and a helicopter, so what were you waiting for?”

    Why can’t these psycho fundies do the same? Are they so desperate for a true sign that they’re willing to put the lives of others and themselves on the line?

  151. #151 Nick Gotts
    April 29, 2008

    You can ask him about the effectiveness of the long-running British Experiment On Prayer. Namely, millions of brits praying “God Save The Queen” daily. You could note that god has not chosen to save any of the prior kings or queens, in spite of centuries of prayer. :) – Marcus Ranum

    I doubt that millions of Brits do pray that daily. If you’re thinking of the national anthem, it’s not sung that often. I think High Church Anglicans would pray it on Sundays; don’t know about Catholics. Prayer frequency would certainly have fallen over the last half century, but Liz Windsor has already outlasted all her monarchical predecessors other than Victoria, and I’d say there’s a high probability she’ll surpass the latter – less than 2 years to go, and she appears to be in robust health. So maybe this is additional evidence that being prayed for (and knowing it) actually shortens your life? Or that temperate habits (in marked contrast to many of her predecessors), modern standards of hygiene, and modern medicine tend to lengthen it.

    Incidentally, even if Liz surpasses Victoria in longevity, she won’t immediately become the longest-lived British Head of State. That will still be Richard Cromwell (4 October 1626 – 12 July 1712), otherwise known as “Tumbledown Dick”, who succeeded his (considerably) better-known father, Oliver, as Lord Protector from September 1658 to May 1659. There are unlikely to have been many prayers for his long life from the general public.

  152. #152 Jay
    April 29, 2008

    Christian science? That’s like saying Jumbo Shrimp or IT Girl.

    I’m getting really tired of this Jesus asshole.

  153. #153 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    @#

    I think there may be legal precedent in the 1944 Prince v Commonwealth of Massachusetts case that #71 SteveWH cited above, in which the Supreme Court ruled that Jehovah’s Witnesses have the right to sacrifice their lives for religious reasons, they do not have the right to sacrifice the lives of their children for those same reasons:

    The right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death [. . .] Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves.

    But as we all know, legal precedent is not always followed by subsequent courts.

    I’m thinking maybe you could file a case on behalf of a child asserting that their 1st amendment freedom of religion had been violated, but I think that would only work if the child had explicitly asked to be treated by a doctor and their parents had refused, and even then the rights of minors in this country are so poorly delineated that it’s debatable. In any case, I doubt this would happen anyway since children who have been brought up in this kind of environment typically trust their parents’ love and concern for their welfare implicitly. It’s a depressing situation.

    I keep trying to think of another way this law could be challenged but I’m having difficulty. If someone can think of one, please share it.

  154. #154 TheZog
    April 29, 2008

    Rieux at #144,

    I’m not quite as sold on the prosecution’s case as you are, though I agree that they have a strong case. The mens rea of criminal recklessness has both an objective and subjective part. I think there’s little quesiton that objectively the parents created an unreasonable and substantial risk of death in this case. The tricky part is the subjective prong, whether or not the parents were aware. Someone saying, “well they should have been aware” is not enough, since that is negligence, not recklessness. Finding subjective proof of knowledge of the risk is hard, and while it does not require admission of knowledge by the defendans, inferring it from the circumstances is difficult especially in light of the burden of proof on the prosecution: beyond a reasonable doubt.

  155. #155 negentropyeater
    April 29, 2008

    Thezog #114,

    can you please provide links, really interested about this.

    Then here’s one question, are you certain that in some cases prayer which would work as a placebo effect (via hope of a betterment) in conjunction with a medical treatment not improve the chances of the patient. If you can provide studies on this I’d be interested. Thx.
    Sorry if this has already been debunked previously on Pharyngula, maybe you can just point me to the relevant thread.

  156. #156 EntoAggie
    April 29, 2008

    @153 TheZog:

    Would certain actions the parents took, such as the e-mail alert calling for “emergency prayer” from the community count as evidence that the parents were aware of the risk?

  157. #157 TheZog
    April 29, 2008

    Etha @ # 152,

    There’s a fundamental difference between the facts in Prince and the facts here. In that case, the appellants were acting in violation of a law they felt was unconstitutional. In this case, there’s an affirmative, legislative action that allows the very conduct of the parents, i.e. the exception to the child abuse statute. It’s somewhat moot, however, since these particular parents are not being charged under the child abse statute, but are charged with homicide. Therefore, the exception is not applicable.

  158. #158 Kitty
    April 29, 2008

    TheZog@#146

    Many thanks. The intricacies of the American legal system have passed me by. An eye-opener, I will continue to read with interest.

  159. #159 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    So the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act gives the following definition of child abuse (in the “Definitions” section of the act):

    2. The term “child abuse and neglect” means, at a minimum, any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm

    Seems pretty clear cut that what the Neumann’s did was abuse. I don’t know if CAPTA would be enough in and of itself to challenge the legality of the state laws, but it might be a start….

  160. #160 MikeM
    April 29, 2008

    I bet these parents already have a justification. I bet they’d tell you, even today, that if prayer didn’t do the trick, insulin would not have either. They’re still wrong, and their daughter is still dead, but I bet in a few years, they’ll look back on this and “comfort” themselves with this thought.

    I find a connection between this story and the fundamentalist Mormons in Texas… Half of the 14-17 year old girls taken are either currently pregnant, or have been. I know the courts down there caused immediate pain by dispersing these children, but I just don’t see what choice they had. As parents, we really do have to look out for our kids, even if it means short-term pain for those kids.

    That’s the connection here; people taking the easy way out because of a sky fairy. I mean, an insulin shot… How painful can that be?

    In a couple of years, though, these parents will be able to tell you, with not a trace of tears, that if prayer didn’t work, nothing would have. They’ll still be wrong; they still won’t get it. This probably affirms their convictions, instead of smashing them to smithereens (which is how rational people react).

    If you can’t take care of your kids, some authority (almost always the government) has to take the kids away from you. Where possible, the kids would preferably end up with a family member who has strongly denounced the actions of the parents; but when no such family member can be found, sorry, but “back to the compound” is not the solution.

    I’m not sure the law should allow the Neumanns in the same room with their other three kids, ever again. They are a danger to them; keep them away.

  161. #161 Holydust
    April 29, 2008

    I guess I just don’t understand this insanity.

    As a Christian child and knowing lots of Christian people, I had pretty much been raised with the assumption that prayer was what you did when it was “out of your hands and into God’s”. I never saw anyone skip straight to prayer without taking common sense measures. I read the “pray for the Neumanns” page and it made me want to put my monitor out the window… it is the most creepy, disgusting tripe I’ve ever read.

    Every day I get more and more afraid of these people. I’ve gone from raising my eyebrows to wanting to punch them to seriously fearing for my lives. They are delusional and dangerous. The fact that they continue preparing themselves for “persecution” just exacerbates things. There’s no way to show them that they are indeed nuts and that our being afraid of them is not just some prejudice, but a logical reaction to a psychopathic group of deranged people.

  162. #162 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    @#156 TheZog —

    Ah, I see. Thanks for the law clarification.

    Basically, I’m desperate. I want to come up with some way that these law could be overturned, because they really horrify me…so I throw laws and court decisions and what not at the wall in hopes that something will stick ;).

  163. #163 Steverino
    April 29, 2008

    Stupid, stupid parents…poor child.

    If the child had broken her leg or cut herself badly, would they have prayed for healing? No, of course not!

    Stupid hypocrites.

  164. #164 ShavenYak
    April 29, 2008

    #109:

    The only way the law could be struck down by a court is if an abused child challenged it as a violation of the Establishment Clause. Someone not affected by the operation of the law would not have standing to bring a challenge. So you would basically need a child challenging his/her parents.

    In this instance, the child is dead and the state is prosecuting the parents on her behalf. So, if the family is found not guilty, wouldn’t the state prosecutors then have standing to challenge the law’s constitutionality?

  165. #165 Melonie
    April 29, 2008

    Something similar happened to me when I was 16 years old. I had meningitis with septacaemia and became unconscious at 6pm. My parents called some of their friends over to pray for me. It wasn’t until 2am when I wasn’t getting any better that they decided to call an ambulance. I was rushed to hospital and in a coma for several days. When I recovered they naturally assumed it was due to prayer and not the excellent medical treatment in intensive care!

  166. #166 ShavenYak
    April 29, 2008

    #115:

    Second degree murder?! These fuckers should be shot. Somewhere not immediately fatal but likely to go septic so death comes slowly and painfully. We’ll invite all the faith healers in the world to come by, and the entire Christian community can gather round and have a big fucking pray-off to save their lives, and it’ll be a big fucking ‘my faith is bigger than your faith’ pissing contest, and when these two clowns breathe their last we can put this whole fucking faith healing thing to bed forever.

    Rather than shooting, how about letting a Komodo dragon bite thir private parts? Guaranteed to go septic.

    By the way HOW MANY OF YOU PEOPLE ARE GOING TO POST THE STUPID JOKE ABOUT THE GUY ON THE ROOF IN THE FLOOD?

  167. #167 Just Bugging ShavenYak
    April 29, 2008

    Hey, did you hear the one about the guy on the roof in the flood?

    Oh, you have?

    Well, I tell it better. It goes like this…

  168. #168 kmarissa
    April 29, 2008

    In this instance, the child is dead and the state is prosecuting the parents on her behalf. So, if the family is found not guilty, wouldn’t the state prosecutors then have standing to challenge the law’s constitutionality?

    I believe the difference is that the manslaughter charges are criminal, whereas a challenge to the law’s constitutionality is civil in nature. The prosecutors aren’t really prosecuting on the child’s behalf in the sense that prosecutors can prosecute violations of the law on their own. They don’t need special standing; they already have it (in fact, they can prosecute even against the wishes of the victim if they choose). For civil cases such as a challenge to the constitutionality of a law, you need standing to bring suit.

  169. #169 TheZog
    April 29, 2008

    ShavenYak @ #163, “So, if the family is found not guilty, wouldn’t the state prosecutors then have standing to challenge the law’s constitutionality?”

    Nope, violation of Double Jeopardy. Once acquitted by the jury, the state cannot prosecute an accused for the same crime. Plus, it would be an odd pairing of parties since you’d have state officials, the district attorney, challenging a state law. That one wouldn’t really go over well.

    EntoAggie @ #155, “Would certain actions the parents took, such as the e-mail alert calling for “emergency prayer” from the community count as evidence that the parents were aware of the risk?”

    That would serve as very good proof in my estimation.

  170. #170 Aegis
    April 29, 2008

    “Sadder still has been the response of many so-called Christians who make statements like, “They should go to jail”; or “They should have taken her to the doctor, praying on the way.” I must ask, where is their faith?”

    Their faith, “Pastor Bob”, is dead in a box along with an innocent girl. I reserve this wish for the worst of humanity – Pastor Bob, I hope you die, sooner than later. While conceptually I know my wish, like prayer, has no effect in the real world, it makes me feel a bit better.

  171. #171 sailor
    April 29, 2008

    “These parents had no intent to kill their child. Quite the opposite, they did only what they were taught to do by their religious leaders, encouraged by their Bible, approved by tradition, praised by their community, supported by the state, financed with tax exemptions, and legalized by courts that sanctify the role of the parent.”

    I think June has an excellent point here, regardless of whether they belonged to a mainstream church or their own cult. In a society where we give such support to nonsense ideas, can you really blame some members of society for believing them? In advertising we have a modicum of protection against fraud, even so people will still pay ridiculous amounts of money for junk that does nothing. (How many of of you have bought magnetic fuel enhancers?)
    The parents are dumb and far from blameless, but before we start jailing people for this should we not insist society holds those church officials who advertise this idiocy responsible?

  172. #172 kmarissa
    April 29, 2008

    Nope, violation of Double Jeopardy. Once acquitted by the jury, the state cannot prosecute an accused for the same crime.

    Question, though: if the prosecution were able to challenge the constitutionality of the law, they wouldn’t be prosecuting the accused for the same crime, they would be challenging the state itself for enacting the law, right?

  173. #173 me
    April 29, 2008

    HOW MANY OF YOU PEOPLE ARE GOING TO POST THE STUPID JOKE ABOUT THE GUY ON THE ROOF IN THE FLOOD?

    Hey, didya hear the one about the guy on the roof in the flood?

  174. #174 MikeB
    April 29, 2008

    #43 Dennis N

    Common sense tells us that it’s neglect if you don’t trust in God.

    So let’s say you are sitting in a restaurant and you see a child choking on a chicken bone. Would you suggest that an appropriate response would be to rise up and lead the restaurant patrons in prayer so god will reach down and pull the bone from the child’s throat?

    What if I were to perform the Heimlich maneuver on the child and successfully dislodge the bone and save the child? I trust in my knowledge of first aid. Oh wait, if that happened then you would probably say your prayer was answered because someone in the restaurant knew how to save a choking victim.

    If the rescue happened to be unsuccessful, and the child died, then somehow it got out that I was atheist, I wonder how well that would go over?

    Sad, just sad. The unrelenting, white hot, searing, uber stupid burns.

  175. #175 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    Marcus Ranum, re: atheism and social darwinist morality:

    Please read my latest blog post for an explanation of why you are wrong.

  176. #176 ThirdMonkey
    April 29, 2008

    So, he had a computer and was knowledgeable enough to email and access prayer web sites, but he couldn’t go to WebMD and look up her symptoms? I just tried with the symptoms described. WebMD came up with 20 possible illnesses (including Diabetes), all of which were terrible.
    I guess you can lead a horse’s ass to the internet but you can’t make it think.

    I’m just glad that the other kids are in protective custody and the parents are being brought up on charges. When the story first broke it wasn’t clear whether either of those things would happen.

  177. #177 Adrienne
    April 29, 2008

    So a guy and a roof walk into a flood…or is that a guy, a roof, and a flood walk into a bar?

  178. #178 Rieux
    April 29, 2008

    TheZog (#153–BTW, whatta handle!): I guess we’re agreed that the prosecution has a strong, but not overwhelming, case here. I’m with EntoAggie (#155), though, that there appears to be a fairly large amount of evidence that the parents had a subjective understanding of the risk.

    And anyway, if I were prosecuting this one, I think I could bring up the whole account of the victim getting worse and worse and trust the jury to connect the dots. (“How could they have seen that happen to their daughter and not realized that she was in grave danger?”)

    Again, this isn’t a slam-dunk case for conviction, but it’s better than plenty I’ve seen.

  179. #179 Just Bugging ShavenYak
    April 29, 2008

    A roof is floating upside-down in a flood, and there’s this guy swimming ahead of it, pulling it with a rope in his teeth…

  180. #180 Lago
    April 29, 2008

    After my brother and sister had died, I went to a support group for several months. I became friends with a lot of people that had lost loved ones due to tragic events. The support group was run through a local hospital and a counselor was always there as a monitor.

    One day the monitor decided to tell us about, “The power or prayer.” She gave examples of how God would help her out in daily life. What was her example? Well, it was near Christmas time and she talked about how hard it was to get a good parking spot. She then went on to tell how, if she prayed, a spot would open up for her.

    I sat there in shock. I was in this group because I had lost several family members. Didn’t she realize that I had prayed desperately for them before they died? The guy next to me that I was friends with had lost his brother to murder where a gang had tied him to a chair, poured gasoline on him, and set him on fire. I imagine his brother prayed quite loudly. Both of us were just typical examples of the people in that group, and this lady was telling us god listened to her prayers for parking spaces.

    As you might have guessed, I got very mad at this lady and asked her why God was answer her prayers for a parking space, but was not answering the prayers of all the parents of missing children, or the prayers of starving children, and so on.

    I was afraid the rest of the group was going to be mad at me, but I found out that most agreed with me, and the monitor actually left shortly after that…

  181. #181 Zbu
    April 29, 2008

    Holydust, you shouldn’t be afraid of these people. You should be angry. People this stupid and so deaf to rational thought need to seek immediate help. I wouldn’t be afraid of them. I wouldn’t give them the power that fear has over people. If anything, these people simply aren’t smart enough to realize what they’re doing. They’re just a sad bunch of pathetic idiots who’ll swallow any bullshit. If someone with a collar told them that the Earth was flat and dog feces was chocolate, these idiots would start eating turds as soon as they could.

    Don’t fear idiots. Just get angry. These people need a good yelling at.

  182. #182 Adrienne
    April 29, 2008

    A roof is floating upside-down in a flood, and there’s this guy swimming ahead of it, pulling it with a rope in his teeth…

    Then God zooms by in a speedboat, creating a lot of annoying waves for the poor schmuck pulling the roof by his teeth….

  183. #183 Lettuce
    April 29, 2008

    If I see one more comment about Britons shaking their heads “no”.

    I’m in Wisconsin. I shook my head no.

    I shook it when the folks in Wisconsin got themselves charged, I shook it when the guy in Austria got charged, I shake it when Australia fancies themselves “Mini America”, I shake it when the folks in Africa are going on about their penises…

    And I shake it when British people do the same.

    You’re ignorant.

  184. #184 gex
    April 29, 2008

    I wonder if the marriage will even survive this. If the father was crying and wanted to go to the doctor…

    I don’t know if I’d ever forgive my wife if I were him. If I were willing to displease God and get satanic-scientific modern medical care because I loved my daughter and she talked me out of it? Yikes. Not pretty.

  185. #185 me
    April 29, 2008

    You’re ignorant.

    Now, now, lettuce not throw around such insults.

  186. #186 MikeB
    April 29, 2008

    #180 Lago
    Whether it’s war, death, the super bowl, slot machines or parking spaces, prayer has the same effect.

  187. #187 Rieux
    April 29, 2008

    HOW MANY OF YOU PEOPLE ARE GOING TO POST THE STUPID JOKE ABOUT THE GUY ON THE ROOF IN THE FLOOD?

    “Joke”?

    I just heard a different account of the events in question:

    A neighbor came by on a raft he had made and offered to rescue the man. “No,” he said; “God will save me.” Later, firemen in a rescue boat offered to take him. “No,” he replied; “God will save me.” Finally, a helicopter swung him a rope to climb aboard. Same answer.

    Of course, the man ultimately drowned. When he approached St. Peter at the pearly gates, he cried, “Why didn’t God save me?”

    St. Peter answered, “He wanted you dead, pal. If you don’t like that, tough: He’s God, and you’re not. By the way, the neighbor on the raft, the firemen in the boat, and the helicopter pilot all had sudden heart attacks and are now burning in hell for trying to thwart God’s will. Again, if you think that’s unjust, too bad–who are you to question God?”

    I’m not sure how two different versions of that story got around.

  188. #188 dieselrain
    April 29, 2008

    “Believe what you want to believe; I don’t care what you believe. But I DO care about your acting upon/not acting upon your beliefs.” How about a constitutional ammendment worded thusly: “In this country (the U.S), seriously ill children (under age 21) must be taken to a medical doctor for treatment regardless of what the parents/guardians believe.” Or, we can have this protection enacted into law. We already have other laws protecting minors (license to drive, incest, abuse, etc.) so protecting children from the excesses of religion should be a no-brainer. Belief must be separated from acting upon/not acting upon a belief.

  189. #189 Emmet Caulfield
    April 29, 2008

    And that’s the possibility of a person coming to power in the USA who actually shares the views of poor Kara’s parents … I’M SCARED SHITLESS

    Maybe I’m pessimistic, but I think it’ll start when McCain wins, which he probably will, then appoints a Nino Scalia clone to the SCOTUS when Stevens retires (he’s already 87). In less than 20 years, you’ll be electing President Phelps: “Hello, theocracy!”.

    Why do you think the rest of the world cares about the “internal” religio-politics of the US?

  190. #190 gex
    April 29, 2008

    I can’t get through much of the article without wanting to comment.

    These people couldn’t tell the difference between PUBERTY and FATAL DISEASE. They are so reason and science phobic they can’t tell this?

    Oh, favorite quote: “Dale Neumann “preferred to say that she was ‘in sleep mode.’ ”

    I a computer/technology quote for him too. “Game over”.

  191. #191 Rieux
    April 29, 2008

    Sorry; here‘s the cite for my version of the “guy on a roof” story.

  192. #192 Raynfala
    April 29, 2008

    A roof is floating upside-down in a flood, and there’s this guy swimming ahead of it, pulling it with a rope in his teeth…

    Then God zooms by in a speedboat, creating a lot of annoying waves for the poor schmuck pulling the roof by his teeth….

    …and then God creates a horse ex nihilo. The horse looks at its reflection in the water, turns to God, and says, “Hey, why the long face?”

  193. #193 K. Signal Eingang
    April 29, 2008

    Ryan F Stello @ 146 (did we lose a post somewhere?)

    Sadly, I didn’t get a screenshot. I should’ve, the press release has evolved considerably since it was originally posted. The original version read like (I’m paraphrasing) “We hardly knew these people but we’re very sorry they didn’t have enough faith to heal their child, because usually this totally works. BTW we’re praying very hard for Jesus to bring her back to life. HTH.”

    The current version still has a lot of snake oil and insanity, but no clown nose, and a bunch of stuff has been tacked on asserting that the Neumanns are being “persecuted” and besides, doesn’t the AMA make mistakes too? I think it must be on its third or fourth revision by now.

  194. #194 Aegis
    April 29, 2008

    The wife says this in her statements: “I thought it was a spiritual attack.”

    This is for every ignorant theist in the world:
    THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SPIRITUAL ATTACK.

    Your ‘pastors’, ‘priests’, ‘mullahs’, ‘reverends’ or whatever term you wish to assign to people who have no clue as to what reality is like are FOOLING YOU, and your children are dying because of it.

    There is no such thing as ‘spirtualality’, and if you think there is, guess what? You are wrong.

    Here’s a fun thing to do – I’ll put myself on the line for your education:

    “Demons/evil spirits/nether-realmers, you have complete freedom to attack me personally today, up to and including killing me. This offer is rescinded after 11:59:59 on April 29th, 2008 when I return under the protection of the fact that you don’t exist. Come and get it!”.

    I’ll post again tomorrow, to let you know that the boogeyman didn’t get me before the ‘dead’line.

  195. #195 Chuck
    April 29, 2008

    You know, it almost seems like these people willfully neglected to save their daughter. Has the possibility that this faith healing story is merely a cover to let go of a daughter whose medical condition was perceived as a burden to the family? As rampant as braindead stupidity is in our culture, there are plenty of frauds, willful child abusers, and murderers, too.

  196. #196 gex
    April 29, 2008

    God’s will sure is a funny thing. I for one can’t help but notice that when people tell me what God wants it is ALWAYS exactly what they want.

    When I was a teenager a couple in Iowa had septuplets after fertility treatments. When asked why they didn’t selectively abort, they said it was God’s will.

    Even at the tender age of 14 I realized what utter BS that was. If you believe in God’s will, it was for you not to have any kids. That’s why you were infertile.

  197. #197 Jim A
    April 29, 2008

    Re: the “Think of it as evolution in action,” subthread.
    Yes it IS tastless. Of course if we were to take it seriously, we’d have to point out that since we’re talking MEMES instead of GENES, the evolution in question is Lamarkian and not Darwinian. People do indeed learn new things during their lives and pass them on to their children. Even if the congnitve dissonance referred to above will fix the parents in their ways, it’s reasonably likely that the removed children won’t be passing THIS particular stupidity on to their children.

  198. #198 Aegis
    April 29, 2008

    “Even at the tender age of 14 I realized what utter BS that was. If you believe in God’s will, it was for you not to have any kids. That’s why you were infertile.”

    Game, Set, Match.

  199. #199 Adrienne
    April 29, 2008

    …The horse looks at its reflection in the water, turns to God, and says, “Hey, why the long face?”

    And then the guy pulling the rope (attached to the roof) with his teeth spits out the rope, and turns out to be former presidential candidate John Kerry, who says, “I’m getting REALLY TIRED of that joke.” Meanwhile, the roof sinks.

  200. #200 OctoberMermaid
    April 29, 2008

    Disgusting.

    I said similar in the chatroom, but one thing that the Christians I know and have lived around believe is that you MUST love Jesus more than your spouse and children. You must always be careful to be sure never to love your family more than God. If you do that, you’re in trouble, apparently.

    So maybe these warped bastards thought “Well, if we don’t rely on prayer, that means we don’t trust Jesus and we care about our daughter more. Can’t do that! We’ll pass your sick test, Jesus!”

  201. #201 gex
    April 29, 2008

    #115

    Prayer helps the same way meditation helps or relaxing helps or exercising helps. Stress reduction is such an easy preventative medical procedure we could all do. There’s no woo to it.

  202. #202 DCN
    April 29, 2008

    I wonder how much prayer will be needed to fix dad’s asshole–in a few months it should resemble a basketball hoop.

  203. #203 mikecbraun
    April 29, 2008

    Hopefully they toss the dad in with hardened criminals and let him fend for himself. The other criminals are going to LOVE this guy. Not only do they hold a special place in their hearts for child killers, but I’m sure they enjoy virgins just as much as other religious folk do…

  204. #204 thadd
    April 29, 2008

    I agree with Drew, I think that the law quoted in defense of these terrible actions likely only applies to adults, since children cannot actually consent to this.
    While adults can often act as their childrens’ gaurdian and give consent, there is usually a level where failures as a gaurdian can be considered abuse. ie giving your child crack or a nice stiff drink is considered abuse, not the right to consent.

  205. #205 John Bode
    April 29, 2008

    I’ve been trying to organize my thoughts for a post/article/paper/whatever exploring the area where religious and/or cultural practice comes into conflict with the law, mostly inspired by the recent raid on the FLDS compound in West Texas, but this story plays into it as well. Unfortunately, I just don’t have the bandwidth to really think it through.

    On the one hand, the document that defines this nation explicitly guarantees religious freedom:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

    But on the other hand, we have laws on the books that do limit, if not prohibit, the free exercise of some religions (notably laws against polygamy). We can argue that those practices are harmful or that the people practicing those religions are almond nutbars, but does that negate the language of the first amendment?

    Ahh, like I said, I just haven’t had the time to think this through.

  206. #206 Moggie
    April 29, 2008

    @ #146:
    Unfortunately, I didn’t get a screenshot, but I can confirm that the press release did contain that smiley on 27 March, because I commented on it elsewhere (and cut-and-pasted it, so I know I didn’t imagine it).

  207. #207 Steve Sutton
    April 29, 2008

    I’m so thrilled to read that they’re not going to get away with it, like nothing even happened. They let their daughter die and seem to have no problem with letting their other kids die, as well. At least, now, they won’t be allowed to.

  208. #208 Tulse
    April 29, 2008

    On the one hand, the document that defines this nation explicitly guarantees religious freedom:
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
    But on the other hand, we have laws on the books that do limit, if not prohibit, the free exercise of some religions (notably laws against polygamy).

    And in spite of that same First Amendment, the US also has laws that limit free speech (such as libel laws, laws against incitement, laws against fraud, laws against false advertising, etc.). Freedoms are always balanced against each other, especially when harm to others is involved. If my religion demanded human sacrifice of unwilling victims, then the US Constitution wouldn’t protect that, either. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that First Amendment protections are not absolute.

  209. #209 Nentuaby
    April 29, 2008

    John Bode @#205:

    The key principle in such cases is that religion is not an expemption from culpability in cases where the action is in and of itself illegal, setting aside religious aspects. Thus, for instance, slaughtering animals is legal, so there’s very shaky ground for prohibiting animal sacrifice (except on cruelty grounds, but like I said- shaky.) On the same grounds, there’s certainly no way we could legitimately forbid ritual blood drinking, provided the animal it’s taken from was slaughtered by FDA standards. On the other hand, allowing a minor to die of neglect is illegal without respect to religion, so it’s still bad if it’s on religious grounds.

  210. #210 gex
    April 29, 2008

    #152 – “Christian science? That’s like saying Jumbo Shrimp or IT Girl.”

    -snark-Yeah! Girls are stupid and can’t handle technology!!!!!-/snark-

    Girls or women aren’t or can’t be in IT? *This* girl is in IT now and graduating with a computer science degree. I don’t get why the random attack on a gender while making your point that Christian Science is an oxymoron. Unless it’s to prove that you have inherited some of the sexism that I believe is largely the promoted by the religions you are insulting. (Incidentally, I think this attitude also accounts for why you think IT Girl is an oxymoron. Turns out if you tell people they suck at something they either don’t try or it becomes self-fulfilling prophecy.)

    My girlfriend dislikes playing on XBox Live because it turns out that when you get bunches of young white guys together with anonymity, many like be as vocally and vilely racist, sexist, and homophobic as possible. Simply having a female voice on-line gets her targeted by the most vicious misogynistic crap it’s not funny. It’s to the point where I think we wasted our money on the gaming system and the Live subscription.

    Feel free to add to that culture.

    See XKCD entitled How it Works

  211. #211 AJ Hawks
    April 29, 2008

    As a Type 1 diabetic for just the past 2 years, I find this especially sickening, and frightening.

    Frightening because I know I would suffer a similar death if for some reason I can’t get insulin.

    Sickening for obvious reasons.

  212. #212 Aegis
    April 29, 2008

    “It’s to the point where I think we wasted our money on the gaming system and the Live subscription.”

    You can use the voice-altering thing in the preferences; perhaps that would give you some relief?

  213. #213 Kseniya
    April 29, 2008

    Lago (#180) Boy can I relate to that. I still get a dull ache in my belly when I hear someone cheerfully proclaim, “Prayer works!” When it’s someone who knows me, it’s more like a stabbing pain.

  214. #214 Jorge666
    April 29, 2008

    Concerning Double Jeopardy – Between the 2 different systems, Federal and State – If there is a state and federal law that fit the specification, someone can be charged in either jurisdiction. If they are found not guilty, then the other jurisdiction can charge and try the person. It is not double jeopardy as they are two separate systems. The prosecutors take advantage of this when the penalty in one jurisdiction is more than the other. For instance, medical pot. In state where they have passed medical pot laws, usually an individual is charged with a violation of Federal Law as the State Law has the medical exception. Typically, federal drug laws have a stiffer penalty than state statutes.

    Now we get to civil and criminal. Reference the OJ Simpson affair. He was found not guilty of murder, but he was sued in civil court which found him financially liable for the death.

    As far as a crime being committed on federal land or against federal agents/employees in the pursuit of their official duties, the federal system takes precedence unless there is an agreement with the state or local government.

    For what it is worth, I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on the Internet. YMMV

    Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

  215. #215 gex
    April 29, 2008

    #195 –

    I think you have gotten to the crux of the problem with the exemption. Even if we wanted to allow the religious exemption for child abuse, it opens doors. It is far too easy to say, “I am doing this because of my faith.”

    Of course, I can’t even go far. I’d be curious how the exemption was framed when it was written because “religious exemption to abuse children” doesn’t really seem like it would garner a lot of support.

  216. #216 Barno
    April 29, 2008

    You’re right: Prayer is neglectful like sending get well soon cards is neglectful.
    I can’t wait until we find drugs for everything so we can be free of all this psychosomatic crap and live as the well-tuned molecular machines we are.

  217. #217 frog
    April 29, 2008

    jex #41: I would have beaten the crap out of this “friend”, then told him it was because he lacked faith.

    I would have been tempted to do something even stronger.

  218. #218 Who Cares
    April 29, 2008

    I know of a good parable for this.

    During a stormy season the water in the river is rising and people get evacuated except for one couple that says God will save them.
    One last bus comes around asking them to please get out and move. The couple says no God will save us.
    When the levee bursts they have to move from ground floor to the upper floor. A boat comes around so they can be evacuated but the couple refuses since they believe God will save them.
    The water continues to rise and the couple ends up on the roof where after some time a helicopter comes around to rescue them. Again the couple refuses because they believe God will save them.
    They drown and arrive at the gates of heaven where they complain that they put their trust in God but instead he let them drown. To which God responds I sent a bus, a boat and finally a helicopter.

  219. #219 sphex
    April 29, 2008

    I keep hitting ‘refresh’ because I just cannot believe that nobody else has commented on this gem of a statement from helptheneumanns.com. Under the heading “From the Neumann family” you read of their daughter that…

    Her servant’s heart was clearly evident in the little significant things she loved to do like washing our feet and treating people with utmost respect.

    WTF??? “washing our feet”??

    I am agog.

  220. #220 Nick Gotts
    April 29, 2008

    I wonder how much prayer will be needed to fix dad’s asshole–in a few months it should resemble a basketball hoop. – DCN

    Hopefully they toss the dad in with hardened criminals and let him fend for himself. The other criminals are going to LOVE this guy. Not only do they hold a special place in their hearts for child killers, but I’m sure they enjoy virgins just as much as other religious folk do… – mikecbraun

    I’d like to suggest another principle for establishment: for people who have done wicked things to be tried, convicted, and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment is just; for them to be raped in jail is not, whatever they’ve done, and a prison system where this happens routinely is a disgrace to the country it belongs to.

    Furthermore, gloating about the likelihood of someone being raped is disgusting.

  221. #221 Tulse
    April 29, 2008

    Oh, dear, it’s getting really hard to tell sarcasm here. That said:

    You’re right: Prayer is neglectful like sending get well soon cards is neglectful.

    If that is all you do for someone under your direct care, then yeah, it’s neglectful.

    I can’t wait until we find drugs for everything so we can be free of all this psychosomatic crap and live as the well-tuned molecular machines we are.

    I completely agree except for “psychosomatic” (since almost all illnesses have some sort of proximal physical component) and “well-tuned” (since we obviously arent very well made, ID to the contrary).

  222. #222 Longtime Lurker
    April 29, 2008

    I have often prayed “God Save the Queen” myself, and the prophecy of “No Future” has never come to pass!

    Please, guys (I don’t think women would ever even consider this sort of statement), stop it with the prison-rape comments. I’m not a prude, but these comments fall under a “secular Hell” concept- leave the torture fantasies to the religious. These parents deserve to be punished harshly by the civil authorities, vengeance is really not something we should wish for.

    Poor girl, judging from her picture, she seemed like she was a spirited child, and she bravely faced an ordeal that should never have come to pass. I have half a dozen friends who have type-1 diabetes, I’d hate to even contemplate what MY life would have been like if their parents had been fundies.

  223. #223 Nentuaby
    April 29, 2008

    @#219:

    Washing the feet is a common spiritual act among some Christian sects. It springs from an ancient ritual of greeting for guests amongst everyone’s favorite sandaled desert-dwellers. Its spiritual significance comes from several bible passages that make a fairly big deal of people who did this for various religious figures, including of course Jesus. This was, of course, simply because it meant they were being unusually welcoming to these figures, but weirder things have become spiritual rituals.

    In modern form the ritual is often performed by children simply because that’s the traditional of it. It’s not really all that weird, in context.

  224. #224 EntoAggie
    April 29, 2008

    Just jumping in to third the “quit the prison rape” thing. Rape is not funny nor desirable, no not even when it happens to men, no not even when it happens to criminals. I agree with the Longtime Lurker–these “secular hell” fantasies are infantile and vindictive, and no better than their religious counterparts.

  225. #225 sphex
    April 29, 2008

    @ Nentuaby #223
    I am familiar with foot-washing as an “ancient ritual” among some Christian sects, as I am aware of the “ancient ritual” of hanging bloody sheets out the window after the marriage has been consummated. Neither of them make any sense to me.

    And it struck me as odd that in a three (short!) paragraph statement from the family about their 11 year-old dead daughter, that would be what they’d choose to mention.

    …but maybe it’s just me.

    Nah. It’s truly odd.

  226. #226 jjbang
    April 29, 2008

    Doesn’t this strike anyone as being allegorical for what is happening with the Texas education system?

  227. #227 Ab_Normal
    April 29, 2008

    gex @ 210:
    Thanks. This ol’ lady in IT was just coming up with *sputter* *grumble*
    (relurk)

  228. #228 Nentuaby
    April 29, 2008

    sphex:

    When the elephant’s tail strikes you as truly odd, it’s a clear sign that you have lost sight of the elephant itself. :P Flippancy aside, though, seriously- ritual is odd. The ones involving violence aside, one is really not odder than another in the same sense fluffy are not really whiter than fresh snow. The washing of feet was what they remembered about her, doubtless, simply because it was a ritual… Feelings of significance enhance memory, and ritual invokes feelings of significance as its very purpose.

  229. #229 Marcus Ranum
    April 29, 2008

    Etha Williams writes:
    As human beings, we’ve evolved to have reason, self-awareness, and, I hope, a little thing called a *conscience*. These things allow us to create meaning in our lives beyond the simple struggle for individual existence.

    Bah – that’s wishful thinking and word-games. If you want to make an accurate statement, you could rephrase it as:
    “These things allow us to choose to believe in meaning in our lives beyond…”
    …which is just as much ‘religious thinking’ as believing in Jebus or whatever. There is no evidence that your life or mine or anyone else’s has any meaning. In fact, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence indicates that “meaning” you “create” is just a closely held personal delusion – just like any other form of faith. You may as well convince yourself you’re going to heaven for your good deeds – it’s going to work as well and mean as much in the end.

  230. #230 speedwell
    April 29, 2008

    gex, I’m a girl and I work in IT. But I’m barely old enough, and certainly literate enough, to recognize that the original commenter meant “It Girl” and not “I.T. Girl.” Look it up, I have a sinus headache that feels like a bear attack and I don’t want to do any work besides help tickets today… :>

  231. #231 kmarissa
    April 29, 2008

    The ones involving violence aside, one is really not odder than another in the same sense fluffy are not really whiter than fresh snow.

    Nentuaby, I do see what you’re getting at. But, perhaps some rituals strike us as stranger not only because we’re unfamiliar with the rituals, but also because the nature of the ritual seems to express values that we don’t share ourselves.

    For instance, here, in describing the foot washing, her parents make reference to “her servant’s heart.” This strikes me as odd in itself, regardless of the associated ritual. I suppose at its most charitable, this statement could mean that her parents appreciated her compassion and hospitable nature. At its worst, they valued her subservience most about her.

    Also, quick question, but I had thought (perhaps incorrectly) that foot washing was usually done for guests. Traditionally, would a child regularly have done this for her own parents, as they seem to imply?

  232. #232 Pyre
    April 29, 2008

    gex @ 210, I’m not sure whether your snark extends to deliberately (for the sake of humour) misunderstanding “IT Girl” as referring to technology. In case not:

    The reference is to the neuter-gender pronoun “it”, combined with the definitely feminine-gender noun “girl”; that combination is what makes the oxymoron (= “contradiction in terms”, not “a type of moron”).

    The term “It Girl” was applied in the 1920s to silent-film star Clara Bow, long before the development-and-naming of the field “I[information] T[echnology].” (The “it” in question was sex appeal, as in “She’s got it!”)

  233. #233 Tulse
    April 29, 2008

    You may as well convince yourself you’re going to heaven for your good deeds – it’s going to work as well and mean as much in the end.

    I don’t mind if people convince themselves of that — it is the convincing of others (and wielding of socio-political power against those who aren’t convinced) that I object to.

  234. #234 Dave
    April 29, 2008

    for people who have done wicked things to be tried, convicted, and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment is just;

    I dont know that it is. It is however, an appropriate response of civilized society.

    for them to be raped in jail is not, whatever they’ve done,

    Frankly, while Im not sure what justice is, it seems to me to be a lot closer to this. Their daughter was helpless as she suffered an easily preventable attack, while those she trusted to care for and protect her neglected that duty. Abhorrent as it is, that seems quite analogous to the prison rape scenario, and thus is justice under the eye for an eye standard. While I think an eye for an eye is a good principle for a criminal justice system, there are many that do.

    and a prison system where this happens routinely is a disgrace to the country it belongs to.

    This part, I agree with.

  235. #235 James F
    April 29, 2008

    #22 thwaite,

    Thanks for the tip – the sound file and transcript are here. You can use the “contact us” tab and choose the program you wish to comment on.

    Here’s what I wrote:

    In your Morning Edition segment (“Bill Lets Fla. Schools Teach Evolution Alternatives” by Greg Allen, April 29), you reported that bills approved by the Florida House and Senate would permit the teaching of “alternate theories” to evolution. The glaring error in this report is that no such alternate scientific theories exist. Rep. Hays admonishes his critics to “search for the truth.” The truth is, a scientific theory (unlike the casual usage of “theory” as a guess or an idea) is overwhelmingly supported by evidence and heavily scrutinized through peer-reviewed scientific research until it gains general acceptance in the scientific community. Scientific theories provide a framework for understanding the natural world, and can be used to make predictions that can be tested and applied in the natural world. It is clear that the “alternative” is Intelligent Design; as you reported, the bill is influenced by the Discovery Institute, which promotes Intelligent Design, and Rep. Hays is on record saying, in defense of his bill, that “too many people are afraid to even mention the theory of intelligent design.” (http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_politics/2008/04/evolving-scient.html). Intelligent Design utterly fails to qualify as a scientific theory, not only because of its lack of data in peer-reviewed scientific research journal articles, but because it invokes supernatural causation – it is repackaged creationism. Rep. Hays asks, “What are you afraid of?” I’m afraid that a non-scientific concept will be forced into the science curriculum by government fiat.

  236. #236 Kseniya
    April 29, 2008

    Pyre – LOL. Funny. I used the term “It” Girl in another thread earlier today. In this context, with “it” in all-caps with no quotes, I read it the same way Gax did, as “info tech girl”. Ooops!

    This changes everything!! :-D

  237. #237 Pyre
    April 29, 2008

    Please also see, in the aforesaid PDF of Wisconsin Statutes 948:

    948.21 Neglecting a child. (1) Any person who is responsible for a child’s welfare who, through his or her actions for failure to take action, intentionally contributes to the neglect of the child is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor or, if death is a consequence, a Class D felony.

    That last is a possible alternative for either a plea bargain or a jury’s lesser verdict.

  238. #238 Pyre
    April 29, 2008

    Sorry for typo: “actions for failure to take action” should read “actions or failure to take action”, minus the “f” (and emphasis).

  239. #239 Pyre
    April 29, 2008

    Dave @ 234:

    While I think an eye for an eye is a good principle for a criminal justice system, there are many that do.

    I suspect there was a word omitted here, involving a negation; perhaps you meant “While I don’t think an eye for an eye….”?

  240. #240 maxi
    April 29, 2008

    Barno @216

    You’re right: Prayer is neglectful like sending get well soon cards is neglectful.

    Wowee! What an amazing analogy, it so puts everything in perspective. So the next time I’m babysitting and I notice the child is unwell, instead of calling the doctor or 999 I will nip to the shops and buy a get well soon card.

    Yeah, because that’s not neglectful!

    Leave prayer for the last resort, not the first. Dumbass Troll.

  241. #241 madprophet
    April 29, 2008

    Just another reason people should be licensed to have children. You have to have a license to drive, practice medicine, law, get married, fish etc., etc..

    But no one EVER suggests that something as important as having children should be scrutinized. Consider how difficult it is for people to adopt. If the rules to have a child were even one quarter as stringent as that of adoption, humanity would be miles ahead planet-wide.

  242. #242 Kseniya
    April 29, 2008

    Marcus:

    There is no evidence that your life or mine or anyone else’s has any meaning. In fact, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence indicates that “meaning” you “create” is just a closely held personal delusion – just like any other form of faith. You may as well convince yourself you’re going to heaven for your good deeds – it’s going to work as well and mean as much in the end.

    Evidence? LOL. True. What’s your definition of “meaning”?

    I try to think of this in terms of the tangible. For me, it’s not unmeaningful to leave the world a slightly better place for humans than I found it. The world doesn’t stop when I die. I want the people I leave behind to be in a better position than they’d have been in if I’d never existed. In my time here, I want to have made a contribution to the welfare and longevity of my race. That’s just “local” meaning, but it’s enough for me. It’s not a delusion, for I fully acknowledge that one day, in the far distant future, it will all end, but so what? “The job is here, and the time is now.” I can no more affect the outcome of events 5 billion years in the future than I can affect the outcome of events 5 billion light-years removed from Earth. That’s inarguably true, but doesn’t serve as a compelling reason for me to be terminally apathetic about the Here and Now. Nihilism is boring. To each his own, I guess.

    The delusion I do NOT share is the one that has me believing that my spirit will live forever, and that my corporeal existence is just a way station en route to the Great Beyond, and the things I do Here and Now have any effect on what will become of ME after I did. But it’s not ME that I’m concerned about. Again, YMMV.

  243. #243 Monado in Toronto again
    April 29, 2008

    As we recognize that loving our families comes from being human, not from God, so we must also acknowledge that hating the outgroup also comes from being human, not religion. It Religion just happens to be the excuse of choice for many people. If it weren’t religion, it would be some other excuse. Rats don’t need religion to snuggle up to their brothers and exterminate the other tribe. Neither would we.

    I think that Prof. Dawkins has forgotten this basic fact when he gets angry about religion being a source of hatred.

  244. #244 Monado in Toronto again
    April 29, 2008

    There was, literally, a case where people were shipwrecked in, I think, the 1800s so they prayed and sat down to await rescue. They didn’t build a shelter, they didn’t look for food, they didn’t build a boat, they didn’t run up a flage, they didn’t walk back to civilization. They all starved to death.

  245. #245 Kseniya
    April 29, 2008

    I think that Prof. Dawkins has forgotten this basic fact when he gets angry about religion being a source of hatred.

    Not necessarily, and your use of the phrase “a source” demonstrates why. There’s both a quantitative and a qualitative difference between religious zealotry and, say, loyalty to the hometeam. Sure, even something as mundane as a sports rivalry can still up irrational hatred, but I have yet to see a half-million well-armed Red Sox fans march on The Bronx to exterminate all those Yankee fans because according to our absolute moral authority it’s the right thing to do or because if we do not, they will overrun us and force their way of life upon us, and won’t somebody please think of the children?!?

  246. #246 Angel Rose Young
    April 29, 2008

    So, they use prayer in Wisconsin and get away with it, do they? Down here in Texas they use amnesia and get away with it too. It should be warm already, but it isn’t really, thank goodness. I dread summer down here every year.

    I always wonder how many people will be stupid enough during the coming summer to leave their tiny children locked in a vehicle outside. Not just leave them in there, but with the windows up, the doors locked, and the engine off. It’s 105 degrees in the shade at late morning; the car isn’t in the shade; the humidity level is 98%; and the child dies because they FORGOT they had the child with them. Male and female alike do this. Parents, and day care center employees, and babysitters all leave children in vehicles this way.

    Someone please tell me: how do you forget you brought a child, even if that child does go to sleep? You don’t look around the car before you get out and go? Isn’t a child in a carseat, or a child in a seatbelt, large enough to spot in a stationary vehicle in broad daylight?

    Watch Texas when the heat gets up. If there isn’t at least one child that dies this way it will be a gosh-darned miracle.

  247. #247 kmarissa
    April 29, 2008

    Angel, in all honesty, that really can happen. And I’m sure the great majority people that it happens to will never ever be able to forgive themselves.

    This almost happened to my mother when my brother was a baby. Luckily he was only alone in the car for 10 minutes or so. It had nothing to do with not caring for her children. It is extremely sad and tragic, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the type of behavior in this news story.

    Btw, my mother has since been diagnosed with adult ADD.

  248. #248 gex
    April 29, 2008

    #230 –

    Hmmm. I am not familiar with “It Girl”, but after looking it up, I don’t see how that can be what he meant. “It Girl” doesn’t appear to me to be an oxymoron like he intended Christian Scientist to be or the more well known Jumbo Shrimp.

    Can you explain how “It Girl” fits into that set? I’m going to assume my original interpretation holds until a better explanation comes along.

  249. #249 kmarissa
    April 29, 2008

    Re: It Girl vs. IT Girl

    For what it’s worth, when I read the original comment, I couldn’t tell which of these was intended. Neither really seemed to make much sense to me — so there seems to be confusion all-round on the topic.

  250. #250 Kseniya
    April 29, 2008

    Gex, it’s an oxymoron on a low-level syntactic and semantic level.

  251. [singular neuter pronoun] [singular feminine human-specific pronoun]

    We know what it means, (the girl who has “it”) but syntactically it’s weird, not unlike “them us” or “he it”.

    What the phrase actually does, of course, is use “it” as an adjective – as in “the ‘hot’ girl.”

  • #251 gex
    April 29, 2008

    Thanks #232.

    Not having been alive in the 1920’s I was not familiar with the usage. So my rant is withdrawn about girls and IT. My apologies for the misunderstanding and the assumptions made about original poster’s attitude towards girls.

    Although I’d take care in using analogies from the 1920’s to make points with people on the Internet! Especially when capitalizing the word “it” becomes IT which is a modern, Internet kind of acronym which will come to mind more readily.

  • #252 Kseniya
    April 29, 2008

    Actually it’s probably a little more accurate to say that it means “The girl who is ‘It’,” where “It” is “The next/current Big Thing in the realm of superstarlets.”

  • #253 gex
    April 29, 2008

    “I think that Prof. Dawkins has forgotten this basic fact when he gets angry about religion being a source of hatred.”

    I don’t think he says that at all. I think essentially says people are capable of good and bad with or without religion. But religion has this special quality about it that can make the bad really bad. When a person KNOWS God’s truth, when they are more concerned with pleasing God and making it to the next life than what happens in this life, you get people who fly planes into buildings because they want to get to Heaven.

    And no, don’t tell me about Stalin or Pol Pot. My claim is not that lack of religion = good. I’m just saying that adding religion can make bad into bad++.

  • #254 Kseniya
    April 29, 2008

    It’s also not as anachronistic a term as you might think. I learned of it back when I was a kid, when I ran across it in a magazine article about Gwyneth Paltrow. That was a while ago, but not more than 12 or 14 years. According to the article, she was The It Girl. She was rocketing to stardom, she was pretty, graceful, talented, everyone loved her; she was with Brad; and she was only… holy crow… only about as old as I am now (23). (Geez, back then, I figured I’d be the It Girl by now… LOL.)

  • #255 MAJeff, OM
    April 29, 2008

    It’s also not as anachronistic a term as you might think. I learned of it back when I was a kid, when I ran across it in a magazine article about Gwyneth Paltrow.

    I came to the term via AbFab.

  • Kseniya {#245], good point. But I think they would find some equivalent for marching, whether it was accent, invade-them-before-they-invade-us, economic status, spreading (or defending) the home culture, etc.

  • #257 maxi
    April 29, 2008

    On this whole ‘IT’ vs. ‘it’ girl debate. For what it’s worth (and I realise that may be very little), I took the original post as it was meant: as an ‘It girl’ (eg: Paris Hilton and Tara P-K),and not Information Technology Girl (eg: all the wonderful computer women on this thread!).

    Maybe it’s a culteral/generation thing?

  • #258 Barno
    April 29, 2008

    Tulse @221:

    Thanks for picking up the sarcasm.

    If that is all you do for someone under your direct care, then yeah, it’s neglectful.

    I completely agree; the parents valued religion over human life – a definite, awful wrong.

    I completely agree except for “psychosomatic” (since almost all illnesses have some sort of proximal physical component) and “well-tuned” (since we obviously arent very well made, ID to the contrary).

    Agreed, though I want to know why you said “almost all illnesses” instead of “all illnesses.”

  • #259 thalarctos
    April 29, 2008

    Maybe he was just channeling Mark Twain:

    In German, a young lady has no sex, while a turnip has. Think what overwrought reverence that shows for the turnip, and what callous disrespect for the girl. See how it looks in print — I translate this from a conversation in one of the best of the German Sunday-school books:

    “Gretchen: Wilhelm, where is the turnip?
    Wilhelm: She has gone to the kitchen.
    Gretchen: Where is the accomplished and beautiful English maiden?
    Wilhelm: It has gone to the opera.”
    –“The Awful German Language”

  • #260 gex
    April 29, 2008

    Good culprits, I’d say. Culture and generation are really good grounds for finding misunderstandings. It sounds like a timeliness and a context issue too, though. So okay, Gwenyth Paltrow and Ab Fab are more recent than the 1920’s but these examples are still over a decade old.

    In any event, is anyone else out there wondering the percentages for each of the interpretations? I’m curious to know which was the more common interpretation and by how much.

    Oh well. I suppose I’m not the only person in this thread that likes to measure and test things to find out stuff, even if it is only of passing curiosity…

  • #261 Angry
    April 29, 2008

    #116
    “Second degree murder?! These fuckers should be shot.”

    Agreed, but only shot once in the gut with a .22 hollow point (dipped in feces). Food and water but no antibiotics…Then let nature take it’s course and they can see how well prayer works on a septic belly wound.

    Killing is too good for them…

  • #262 frog
    April 29, 2008

    Marcus Ranum: “Bah – that’s wishful thinking and word-games. If you want to make an accurate statement, you could rephrase it as:
    “These things allow us to choose to believe in meaning in our lives beyond…”
    …which is just as much ‘religious thinking’ as believing in Jebus or whatever. There is no evidence that your life or mine or anyone else’s has any meaning. In fact, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence indicates that “meaning” you “create” is just a closely held personal delusion – just like any other form of faith. You may as well convince yourself you’re going to heaven for your good deeds – it’s going to work as well and mean as much in the end.”

    Now, that’s a bit simplistic, isn’t it? If you mean there’s no “absolute” or “ultimate” meaning, then of course there is no meaning in that sense.

    But sensible people don’t mean “absolute” meaning. The meaning they mean is within the context they exist – my life has meaning within the context of my family, my community, even to an infinitesimal extent within the ecosystem. The existentialists are wrong when they say we are born alone and we die alone – our skin is not an absolute definition of ourselves.

    Those meanings are real and objective, even if they depend on our subjective context, in the same way that money is real and objective, even if that objectively found reality depends on our subjective response. On the other hand, God is subjective – only the belief in God is an objective reality, as attested to by many stonings.

    That’s what distinguishes a decent morality, one based on our objective realities (even if they depend on the objective fact of our subjective realities), and amorality masquerading as morality, one based only on subjective realities with no reference to the underlying objective reality that gives rise to them.

  • #263 Sastra
    April 29, 2008

    Etha Williams #28 wrote:

    Kids tend to naturally want to love their parents and believe that their parents will care for them. This natural desire allows abused and neglected kids to make up all sorts of excuses for their parents’ behavior, and it’s even worse when there’s a built in religious justification for that abuse and neglect.

    Ok, I know that’s from way back in the thread, but I think it helps to explain what I think is happening here with the parents. Their religion has infantilized them. You can read the paragraph above and substitute the parents for the child, and God for the parents. God’s children have a built-in need to believe He will care for them. He wants them to be children. Forever.

    THAT is what happens when your faith tells you that the entire purpose of your existence is to learn to be a good, obedient child to your Heavenly Father. It is very easy to read the Bible and come to the conclusion that Original Sin is simply another word for self-will. In such a Christianity, then, the ultimate goal is Ultimate Docility. Humble yourself and allow yourself to be directed by God.

    Look at the what the Unleavened Bread Ministries writes:

    When Christians begin to put their trust in The Lord they are as babes learning to walk in a new Kingdom.

    Become as a baby. Trust like a child. What example did the girl’s parents use to show how wonderful their daughter was? Foot-washing. She had a “servant’s heart.” Just like they did, when they refused to take action. Prayer is not action — it is an act of submission. “If I make myself really, really small, perhaps you will reward me with a favor which I don’t deserve. But whatever you do, it is a favor.”

    BlueIndependence above called it “arrogant ignorance.” It’s more than that. They KNEW that “ordinary people” would call a doctor. They weren’t ignorant.

    They had that special thing called “arrogant humility” which religion breeds so well. As Christopher Hitchens put it, religion “manages to combine the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism.”

    The crime of the parents — the root of their neglect — is that they see themselves — and their children — as characters in a cosmic drama. Life and death don’t matter, except as stage settings set up so they can play their role: the willful children who learn how to submit to their Divine Parent. Neither they — nor their children — are really individuals, who matter and have intrinsic value. No, they and their choices are at the center of the universe, the focus of God, only to the extent that they learn that worth and value are all God’s, and their job is to show faith. Trust. Dependency. It’s all a story, they’re all characters, and the entire world becomes nothing but a narrative where they live inside their heads. Believe.

    And society smiles on them and encourages them and applauds them — until they go “too far.” Somehow, the moderates expect Faith has been set with brakes.

    /rant

  • #264 sphex
    April 29, 2008

    In any event, is anyone else out there wondering the percentages for each of the interpretations? I’m curious to know which was the more common interpretation and by how much.

    For what it’s worth, I got the “Gwyneth” version, not the “computer genius” version.

    To get you started on your stats, gex. :)

  • #265 PaulC
    April 29, 2008

    “Read this account of the progression of their daughter’s disease, and ask yourself at what point you would be taking her to the doctor, if she were your child.”

    By the word “blue” at least, though that’s an indication that earlier would have been much better.

  • #266 Lee Brimmicombe-Wood
    April 29, 2008

    There is no evidence that your life or mine or anyone else’s has any meaning. In fact, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence indicates that “meaning” you “create” is just a closely held personal delusion – just like any other form of faith. You may as well convince yourself you’re going to heaven for your good deeds – it’s going to work as well and mean as much in the end.

    Sorry, but I reject your nihilism, Marcus. Are you not a Godly troll trying to give us atheists a bad name?

    Of course life has a meaning. At its most basic level we have a drive to procreate, rear young and protect and nurture both the current and next generations. These are profound biological imperatives, fecund with meaning.

    However, our intelligence permits us to transcend even this, to create vivid and vibrant cultures. Civilization has its deeply squalid side, but can also be sublime, ineffable, wonderful. You may regard this as a delusion and liken it to the empty comforts of religious faith, but that’s a nihilist’s view, bleak and unhappy. It is, if left uncorrected, an inhuman perspective.

    Culture exists. Civilization has tangible benefits. Even religion is real, though the gods the faithful worship are not. These things cannot be dismissed lightly as illusion. They are the products of life and existence. They have meaning, even if sometimes that meaning is hard to discern, or we squabble about the exact nature of that meaning. We can certainly state with confidence they do not have NO meaning, except possibly in the fevered imagination of misanthropes such as yourself.

    I must renounce your hateful and inhumane world view.

  • #267 Leo Tarvi
    April 29, 2008

    I see a lot of people calling 948.03(6) an exemption, as though it’s a sort of “get out of child abuse free” card. Let’s take a look at the text,

    Section 948.04
    (6) TREATMENT THROUGH PRAYER. A person is not guilty of an offense under this section solely because he or she provides a child with treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone for healing in accordance with the religious method of healing permitted under s. 48.981 (3) (c) 4. or 448.03 (6) in lieu of medical or surgical treatment.

    I would like to draw your attention to the word “solely” in the first sentence. As I read it, this is clarifying that Christian Science or faith healing itself is not abuse. It do not say that you cannot be charged for standing by and letting your child die if you pray while you fail to call an ambulance.

    For example, Lil Suzy catches a cold and you pray for her to get better, not child abuse. Lil Timmy falls down a well and you pray for his broken bones to repair themselves as he magically floats out, child abuse.

  • #268 Jams
    April 29, 2008

    John Bode @#205:

    I think the spirit of religious freedom isn’t that religion is exempt from legal restriction, or that any action is fair game as long as it has a religious association, but that the simple fact that an act is religious is not in itself grounds to restrict it.

    For example, saying, “you can’t carry a concealed ceremonial danger in school because it’s religious” is unconstitutional. However, saying “you can’t carry a concealed ceremonial danger in school because it represents an unreasonable threat to other students” isn’t unconstitutional.

    That’s where I think the argument is.

  • #269 Sastra
    April 29, 2008

    In any event, is anyone else out there wondering the percentages for each of the interpretations? I’m curious to know which was the more common interpretation and by how much.

    I immediately got the pronoun/noun conflict (girl–it) and it took a second for me to figure out what gex was going on about (“oh, IT also has some sort of technical meaning about computers or something ha ha.”) Maybe it’s an age thing.

    As for the confusion regarding the phrase “shook her head yes,” that may be a regional thing. I’m in Wisconsin, and it doesn’t strike me as odd. I think it’s common, though Lettuce apparently disagrees.

    However, the all-too-popular Wisconsinite phrase “come here once” (instead of just plain old “come here”) makes me wince.

  • #270 kmarissa
    April 29, 2008

    Leo, I see what you’re getting at, but note the “through prayer alone” language. If they had left out the word “alone,” I would probably agree with your interpretation.

    (6) TREATMENT THROUGH PRAYER. A person is not guilty of an offense under this section solely because he or she provides a child with treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone for healing…

  • #271 slang
    April 29, 2008

    These ‘parents’ make me puke. They’re in the same class (sic) as that monster in Austria that’s all over the news right now. I’m too disgusted to check if anyone else wrote this already. As a father of two young girls even the thought of the remote possibility that these morons might have some influence in their life scares the hell out of me.

  • #272 frog
    April 29, 2008

    Lee #266: “However, our intelligence permits us to transcend even this, to create vivid and vibrant cultures. Civilization has its deeply squalid side, but can also be sublime, ineffable, wonderful. You may regard this as a delusion and liken it to the empty comforts of religious faith, but that’s a nihilist’s view, bleak and unhappy. It is, if left uncorrected, an inhuman perspective.”

    I think you have the key there with “inhuman”. That sort of nihilism imagines a universal view from which one can make a universal judgement on meaning. That is a profoundly religious assumptions – instead of starting from humanity to understand our world, one starts from an imaginary abstraction.

    In the end, nihilism is the dead end of religion. It recognizes that God is dead, but goes no further to abandon the absurd neo-Platonic assumptions that allowed one to fantasize the existence of God in the first place. It is the cold comfort of masochism when sadism is denied us.

  • #273 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    There is no evidence that your life or mine or anyone else’s has any meaning. In fact, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence indicates that “meaning” you “create” is just a closely held personal delusion – just like any other form of faith. You may as well convince yourself you’re going to heaven for your good deeds – it’s going to work as well and mean as much in the end.

    I’m not talking about an objective meaning that will resonate to the ends of the universe and the end of time. I’m talking about a subjective meaning which, for me, is helping in creating a better world for humanity. And the fact that as I share that meaning with others (such as Kseniya) makes this shared meaning all the more meaningful (since I firmly believe that it is through mutual cooperation that a better world will come about), but even if I were the only one to hold this value, it would still be meaningful *to me*.

    There’s a difference between subjective experience and delusion — contrast my constructed subjective meaning to religion, which claims to be objective universal truth…

    I have evidence for my “meaning” existing only insofar as I can see the difference I make, and know that people will remember me as being a positive influence after I am gone. I don’t always accomplish what I set out to — who does? — but when I do, it brings me joy, and when I don’t, at least I tried. And I know that this is meaningful to me.

    I don’t have a fear of death (the main motivation for belief in ‘heaven’…actually, I find the idea of eternal life quite repulsive) except for the fear that I may not do all the things I want to do before I go. The fear of a wasted life, something I think a lot of people have. The only thing I can do to combat that fear is to try to accomplish them to the best of my ability while I am here, and to try to take pleasure in what I see as a meaningful existence.

    I could look out at the cosmos and see a universe heading towards an eventual and inevitable end, in which I am nothing more than an insignificant, meaningless speck. Or I could look out at the cosmos and feel a sense of wonder at the great complexity and chaos I see, and at the small but beautiful place I and my fellow human beings have in it. Given the choice, I think I’ll take the latter.

  • #274 Helioprogenus
    April 29, 2008

    How is it possible to read this story and not go into the kind of rage that might break a few keyboards and computer screens. These religious fucks are so irresponsible, and yet, the overall impression in our culture is that we should respect all beliefs. Fuck that, respect is earned through merit, not praying incessantly for a possible 2000 year old jew to return and lead the world towards a catastrophic nexus of some invisible judgemental asshole to determine the fate of these fuckheads. There clearly isnt’ enough possible anger that can be directed at these stupid parents. I bet many religious assholes are already apologists for these parents’ actions and probably believe that they didn’t pray enough.

    I’ve got an idea, why don’t we incarcerate them in the polar bear exhibit and allow them to pray themselves safe. Polar bears could use a few tasty fuckwits.

  • #275 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    @#262 frog —

    Those meanings are real and objective, even if they depend on our subjective context, in the same way that money is real and objective, even if that objectively found reality depends on our subjective response. On the other hand, God is subjective – only the belief in God is an objective reality, as attested to by many stonings.

    That’s what distinguishes a decent morality, one based on our objective realities (even if they depend on the objective fact of our subjective realities), and amorality masquerading as morality, one based only on subjective realities with no reference to the underlying objective reality that gives rise to them.

    Good points, and well said…revise what I said about subjectivity of meaning in my #273. ((Though I think you are being a bit harsh on the existentialists re: their stance on alone-ness…Sartre was very humanistic and aware of the individual’s place in society — ultimately, he believed that no one is purely a being for-itself, or a being for-others; we are all uneasy beings for-itself-for-others))

    Even though this is a science blog, I think it’s done as much to help me explicitly formulate and (where appropriate) revise my ethical philosophy of life as it has taught me about science :).

    And funny you mentioned money…I was just thinking about money as an analogy for humanistic meaning & morality today (while spending copious amounts of it that I don’t really have…oops).

  • #276 frog
    April 29, 2008

    Etha: “I could look out at the cosmos and see a universe heading towards an eventual and inevitable end, in which I am nothing more than an insignificant, meaningless speck.”

    We don’t know that – we don’t have the physics to know what the rules of conservation of energy on a universal scale is, or whether the universe is a closed system in the entropic sense. So the nihilists don’t even have that to give them pleasure.

    You’re right about Sartre – usually the initiators and writers are far more reasonable than their followers. Look at the PoMo mess of deconstructionism. You start with the eminently reasonable cultural relativity of Boas and other early anthropologists, then you are degraded to Foucault’s deconstructionist word games, and now you have a million intellectual fakers (fakirs?) giving us non-self-consistent idealisms that ignore all of twentieth century philosophy.

    If I recall correctly, when Sartre got his Nobel in literature, he mailed them a curt letter informing them of his bank number if they wished to forward him the money; he really couldn’t find the time for their song and dance. My kind of misanthrope.

  • #277 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    @#263 Sastra —

    Ok, I know that’s from way back in the thread, but I think it helps to explain what I think is happening here with the parents. Their religion has infantilized them. You can read the paragraph above and substitute the parents for the child, and God for the parents. God’s children have a built-in need to believe He will care for them. He wants them to be children. Forever.

    Oh, well spotted, and well put.

    This reminds me of an Xian song, I Just Wanna Be a Sheep. Yes, you read that correctly. No, it’s not meant ironically. And it’s not just sung at fundie gatherings. The mainstream, generally fairly moderate church groups sing it too.

    The song in and of itself is kind of bizarre and perhaps a bit frightening, but here’s the really scary part: as I’ve mentioned before I was religious for a while during my troubled teenage years — from about age 12.5 to 14. Now, I’ve always been generally a fairly independent thinker, even as a very small child. It’s a quality in myself I’ve always valued very highly. But when I was religious, when we would sing the song — and we sang it fairly often — the bizarre ethics it was preaching didn’t cross my mind ONCE. I never felt a moment of cognitive dissonance until much later, when I had lost my “faith” and was thinking back on the song. Suddenly I realized — what was I thinking? How could I sing that song without even a momentary critical thought?

    But I did. And so do millions of other Christians.

    (For the morbidly curious, the song is online here.)

  • #278 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    #272 frog —

    It is the cold comfort of masochism when sadism is denied us.

    Is this a quote from somewhere? I seem to remember reading it at some point, but I can’t for the life of me remember where.

    If it isn’t, and it’s a sentence of your own invention, I must congratulate you on an idea well articulated.

  • #279 Charlie Foxtrot
    April 29, 2008

    #117 EntoAggie

    Great way of putting it – thanks! That has made it so much easier for me to visualise: The Death Cult is a parasitic mind-virus – jumping from host to host down the generations, evolving as required and not caring about the fate of its hosts as long as it continues to propagate itself.
    Clarity!

  • #280 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 29, 2008

    While I think an eye for an eye is a good principle for a criminal justice system

    I’m pretty sure you meant to write “I don’t think”, but if I take what you wrote at face value, I agree: it’s a good principle for a criminal justice system, that is, for a justice system that is criminal. (As opposed to a criminal-justice system, which would be a system of criminal justice.)

    I try to think of this in terms of the tangible. For me, it’s not unmeaningful to leave the world a slightly better place for humans than I found it.

    For me, it’s completely meaningless. But so what? I like doing it anyway.

    I simply don’t understand how terms like “meaning” or “purpose” or “sense” are supposed to apply to “life”. I don’t get it. Is it because of Aristotle?

    And no, don’t tell me about Stalin or Pol Pot.

    Do tell me about them, because they had their very own personality cults inside of communism (which is already a rather messianic ideology). Complete religions, only without an afterlife — that’s reserved for Kim Jong-il (and to a lesser extent Mao, whose apotheosis is not official).

  • #281 alex g.
    April 29, 2008

    Right when I read about this on yahoo yesterday I knew it would be on this blog the next day.

  • #282 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    @#267

    I would like to draw your attention to the word “solely” in the first sentence. As I read it, this is clarifying that Christian Science or faith healing itself is not abuse. It do not say that you cannot be charged for standing by and letting your child die if you pray while you fail to call an ambulance.

    As much as I’d love for this to be true, sadly, it is not:

    Section 948.04
    (6) TREATMENT THROUGH PRAYER. A person is not guilty of an offense under this section solely because he or she provides a child with treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone for healing in accordance with the religious method of healing permitted under s. 48.981 (3) (c) 4. or 448.03 (6) in lieu of medical or surgical treatment.

    (Emphasis mine…)

  • #283 frog
    April 29, 2008

    David: “I simply don’t understand how terms like “meaning” or “purpose” or “sense” are supposed to apply to “life”. I don’t get it. Is it because of Aristotle?”

    Because biological systems are teleological? Teleology is a terrible principle in physics, but in biology it is applicable – biological systems are functional components of larger system, so they have “goals”, “means”, and “ends”. It has to be carefully applied of course – and we can’t get too caught up in it – but in self-referential, feedback driven systems like people, cultures and literature, meaning has meaning. Aristotle just didn’t know when to stop (like most folks).

    If it feels good to be good, that probably implies that it’s meaningful, in the context of culture and biology. It’s not just an irrational random desire.

    Etha: Thank you, I think it’s mine – but you never know, I may have read it somewhere and it’s gotten encrusted back in my reptilian brain.

  • #284 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 29, 2008

    However, the all-too-popular Wisconsinite phrase “come here once” (instead of just plain old “come here”) makes me wince.

    Looks like a calque from German (where it means “come here for a bit” or so, and is used all the time).

    It is the cold comfort of masochism when sadism is denied us.

    :-D

    Ingenious.

  • #285 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 29, 2008

    Aristotle just didn’t know when to stop

    That’s what I mean.

    If it feels good to be good, that probably implies that it’s meaningful, in the context of culture and biology. It’s not just an irrational random desire.

    Of course not. It has been selected for.

  • #286 Leo Tarvi
    April 29, 2008

    kmarissa,
    I’m pretty much just guessing here, but I think it was written that way so that Christian Scientists(sic) aren’t automatically child abusers under the law. This way you can’t use the law to retaliate against that CS waitress who spilled your coffee, but there is still legal protection for children whose parents, say, email for emergency prayer rather than calling 911.
    I hope it’s something like this, I’d hate to think that the spirit of the law considers allowing a child to die without medical attention acceptable as long as you pray about it.

    On a side note, does this quote give anyone else the creeps or is it just me?
    “Her servant’s heart was clearly evident in the little significant things she loved to do like washing our feet…”

  • #287 RamblinDude
    April 29, 2008

    Etha Williams;

    “But when I was religious, when we would sing the song — and we sang it fairly often — the bizarre ethics it was preaching didn’t cross my mind ONCE. I never felt a moment of cognitive dissonance until much later, when I had lost my “faith” and was thinking back on the song. Suddenly I realized — what was I thinking? How could I sing that song without even a momentary critical thought?”

    You’re making me laugh. When I was growing up, one of the churches I went to had a mural on the back wall that portrayed Jesus with a hooked staff in his hand, sitting on a rock, and surrounded by contented, complacent sheep. I never thought anything about it. It seemed perfectly appropriate. It was the perfect distillation of the message we heard every time we went to church. We all aspired to be sheep! It was only years later that I was able to look back on it and realize how bizarre it all was.

    Even after I had begun to realize that Christianity was just one among many religions, with no inherent objective claim to the truth, I was still very slow about disabusing myself of the notion that “Jesus is Lord”. I remember reading someone who said that “The Christians have tripped themselves up over Jesus,” and it bothered me, I wanted to defend Jesus! I just watched myself doing this, rather fascinated at how strong was the pull of all those years of indoctrination.

    Group conditioning is powerful stuff.

  • #288 Pwnagepanda
    April 29, 2008

    ugh
    it always makes me sad when I read these stories. At least the criminals might actually get justice for once.

  • #289 kmarissa
    April 29, 2008

    I hope it’s something like this, I’d hate to think that the spirit of the law considers allowing a child to die without medical attention acceptable as long as you pray about it.

    This may be (part of) why prosecutors are bringing charges under manslaughter, rather than child abuse charges. The referenced exception does appear to protect behavior such as this in at least some situations short of death. That is to say, it appears from the statutory language that a failure to obtain medical care, which otherwise could arguably be considered child neglect or abuse (but where the child did not die), could be excused by the language of this exception.

    My guess is that the language is intended to prevent a parent from being charged with child neglect or abuse solely for refusing to take the child to a doctor generally speaking for religious reasons. I’m not sure exactly where the boundaries of this exception would lie in terms of resulting harm to the child. I’d be interested in any relevant caselaw citing this exception.

    But yes, it’s pretty abhorrent.

  • #290 AndyD
    April 29, 2008

    I assume this story is being carried in newspapers across the states? If so, can I please urge everyone here to write letters condemning this situation and the religious industry that supports it?

    Comments in skeptic blogs are great for supporting each other but comments in mainstream media are more effective in terms of swinging public opinion (and therefore policy)

  • One of the choral songs in Handel’s beautiful Messiah starts out, “All we like sheep have gone astray.” But it’s sung to a different rhythm and with repetitions, so it sounds like

    All, we like sheep!
    All we like sheep!

    …have gone astra-a-a-ay.”

    For some reason people look at me oddly as I stroll down the street singing it. Perhaps it lends itself to the wrong interpretation?

  • #292 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    Okay, in re: my 277 about “I Just Wanna Be a Sheep”…I don’t want to bring undue attention back to a musical atrocity I’m sure we’d all rather forget, but I need to know:

    Is it just me, or do does the one guy look like he’s miming sodomizing the other guy at 1:24? I know they’re supposed to be miming sheep sheering, but really. (Also, why would the good shepherd Jesus want his flock to be shorn anyway?)

    Actually, the more I watch it, the more the entire thing looks like an advertisement for repressed homosexuality…’specially the hip-slapping gestures during the “I don’t wanna be a hypocrite” verse….

  • Besides, it’s a traditional image. Mithras, a favourite God of the Roman soldiers, was called the Good Shepherd of his flock. Who are you to fight tradition?

  • So let’s see…. in the U.S., poor pregnant women can be thrown into jail so that they don’t take drugs that might harm their fetus, but parents of a middle-school child can fail to provide the necessities of life and get away with it? I think the law lacks a sense of proportion. As Robert Heinlein wrote in Stranger in a Strange Land, “Straining at gnats and swallowing camels are required courses in law school.”

  • #295 craig
    April 29, 2008

    Where’s Kenny?

    He need to come into this thread and tell us how we just have closed minds, how we just don’t understand.

  • #296 Holydust
    April 29, 2008

    Zbu:

    Your post was comforting, but the idea remains — getting mad, yelling, all it will ever do is vindicate them in their idea that they are being persecuted and that it makes God happy that they are suffering for him.

    *They’re* suffering. My ass, they’re suffering.

    …that sounded weird, but you get my point.

  • #297 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    @#295 craig —

    Where’s Kenny?

    He need to come into this thread and tell us how we just have closed minds, how we just don’t understand.

    He’d probably tell us that the faith healers have Christianity wrong because they don’t know how to read.

    …actually, on that last point, he might be right :\.

  • #298 Ichthyic
    April 29, 2008

    …actually, on that last point, he might be right :\.

    a broken clock…

  • #299 decrepitoldfool
    April 29, 2008

    “Dale Neumann told investigators that “given the same set of circumstances with another child, he would not waiver in his faith and confidence in the healing power of prayer”

    What’s that old chestnut about “The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result”?

  • #300 freelunch
    April 29, 2008

    You’ll notice that the parents aren’t being charged under the child abuse statute (Chapter 948), so they probably aren’t home free. If I read the JS article correctly, they are charged under the much simpler:

    “Section 940.06 Second?degree reckless homicide. (1) Who-
    ever recklessly causes the death of another human being is guilty
    of a Class D felony.”

    Of course, it might be interesting to see if the prayer exception only applies to the followers of Mary Bakker Eddy or Watchtower who routinely put their children at risk for their foolish beliefs.

  • #301 Ichthyic
    April 29, 2008

    Of course, it might be interesting to see if the prayer exception only applies to the followers of Mary Bakker Eddy or Watchtower who routinely put their children at risk for their foolish beliefs.

    don’t forget the pentecostal snake handlers!

  • #302 Kseniya
    April 29, 2008

    On this “sheep” thing and the god-parent/parent-child/child-child relationships Etha, Sastra and others have brought up:

    This idea has been bouncing around in my head for a while, the idea that a mature creator-god wouldn’t want a bunch of sheep keeping him company for all eternity. Like any good parent, she’d want her children to grow up and mature to be competent, whole, independant and mature adults in their own right – adults whom he could one day meet as peers, not as chattel or perpetual children. Why else endow us with both the yearning and the means to touch the stars?

    Ok, maybe that’s the Childhood’s End in me talking, but dammit, that’s what I think. The “Father” paradigm, as realized by most manifestations of Abrahamic religion, debases us all – the creator-god included.

  • #303 eigenvector
    April 29, 2008

    Of course prayer doesn’t work! If it did I would have won the last 47 California lotteries, but then again so would have 3 or 4 million other people times 47! Guess what? I’m 65 and still doing 8 to 5 every day for the man! Stupid prayer!

  • #304 S. Fisher
    April 29, 2008

    “There was, literally, a case where people were shipwrecked in, I think, the 1800s so they prayed and sat down to await rescue. They didn’t build a shelter, they didn’t look for food, they didn’t build a boat, they didn’t run up a flage, they didn’t walk back to civilization. They all starved to death.”
    Perhaps they should have built a roof and climbed on top of it.

  • #305 norca66
    April 29, 2008

    Prayer, or any personal contemplation of a difficult existential circumstance should not be conflated with acting like blinded jackasses, as these parents most certainly did. If you see suffering, as in the case of this most unfortunate and precious child, hopefully most individuals would act rationally first, and seek a knowable solution. After that, if prayer or any other interior act of consciousness keeps you from flying part, then so be it. Most posters here seem wildly untested by the vagaries of a completely contingent existence. Any of you folks out there sui generis? I didn’t think so.

  • #306 Kseniya
    April 29, 2008

    Doesn’t Liberty University offer a major in Acting Like A Blinded Jackass?

  • #307 Ichthyic
    April 29, 2008

    Most posters here seem wildly untested by the vagaries of a completely contingent existence.

    dude, smoke less pot.

    seriously.

  • #308 RamblinDude
    April 29, 2008

    “This idea has been bouncing around in my head for a while, the idea that a mature creator-god wouldn’t want a bunch of sheep keeping him company for all eternity.”

    Try telling a born-again Christian that.

    I know many who subscribe to exactly that idea that God does want them to be perfectly obedient and sheep-like in every way. I grew up hearing lectures on how the most faithful, obedient and godly people glow with an internal light, and how obedience and sheep like behavior empowers one and gives one wisdom–and makes God happy.

    We were taught that every instinct in man is willful and disobedient and leads to unhappiness. That perfect obeisance to God’s will is the only path to true happiness.

    And if you succeeded in your quest for sheepiness? Then you would become one with God and his will would be yours and you would have true power. That is the real reason people want to be sheep-like. They want the empowerment that goes with it. It’s like a carrot on a stick. And yes, when people are manipulated into aspiring to this “spiritual” greed, it is indeed debasing.

  • #309 Etha Williams
    April 29, 2008

    @#305 norca66 —

    Prayer, or any personal contemplation of a difficult existential circumstance should not be conflated with acting like blinded jackasses…

    “personal contemplation of a difficult existential circumstance?”

    What does that even mean?

    I agree with Ichthyic #307. And if you’re not smoking pot…then I’m a little worried by your bizarre usage of pseudo-intellectual language….

  • #310 Tim
    April 29, 2008

    Religion in the United States could be more entertaining if mainstream churches denounced these loonies as heretics with (more than usual) tenuous and bizarre interpretations of scripture. There are good historical reasons to tolerate wacko churches, within limits, which the Neumann family crossed. BTW, I wonder if a link could be proved between the resurgence of faith-healing and astoundingly expensive health care?

  • #311 Kseniya
    April 30, 2008

    I guess everyone looks for an excuse to pull out sui generis from time to time.

    I do agree with the “should not be conflated” sentiment.

  • #312 RamblinDude
    April 30, 2008

    I dated sui generis for a little while. Couldn’t relate to her.

  • #313 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    @#302 Kseniya —

    Like any good parent, she’d want her children to grow up and mature to be competent, whole, independant and mature adults in their own right – adults whom he could one day meet as peers, not as chattel or perpetual children. Why else endow us with both the yearning and the means to touch the stars?

    No, no, no…you’ve got it all wrong.

    *God* didn’t endow us with the yearning to touch the stars. That’s the devil tempting us. Like the serpent tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. Then that unholy yearning was passed down to all future generations in the form of Original Sin (read: curiosity and the desire for human achievement).

    As for the means — let’s not forget the great tale of human folly told in Genesis 11:

    1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

    3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

    5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

    8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel –because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

    Yeah. So much for a god who wants his children to have the means to reach for the stars…

    Wow. It’s been a while since I read that story. The utter immorality of it kind of scares me now. So let me get this straight: a group of people decide to work together in mutual cooperation to try to accomplish something great. (The motivation to “make a name for ourselves” might have been a bit superficial, but hey, whatever works. I’m just impressed that people from the whole world were able to work together.)

    So then upon seeing that if they work together, man can accomplish anything, God decides that “we” need to divide the people and make it difficult for them to communicate with each other.

    Basically, on the nth day, God created prejudice, that the growth of civilization might be stinted. Nice going, God. Well, I’m sure all your sheep were duly impressed anyway.

    Every time I read the Bible, I find myself respecting its “morality” less….

  • #314 Josh in Philly
    April 30, 2008

    Let me add to the chorus of “Good news that they got charged.”

    Prayer is not a guaranteed magical form of treatment. At the same time, it can and does promote wellness when used in conjunction with other healing arts within the medical field.

    The only way this makes sense is that (obviously) if praying or meditation makes a person feel good, it could make him/her feel better when they’re ill; and if it lifts their spirits, it could mitigate whatever affective component is associated with their dysfunction: a lot of people who are sick get depressed. My atheist mother, rather than prayer, is partial to John Mortimer stories for uplift/

    Frog: Someone Is Wrong on the Internet. Michel Foucault was not a deconstructionist, a player of word-games, or a philosopher of language: you’re thinking of a different Frenchman, an opponent of Foucault’s. Foucault was a philosopher whose speculations dealt with history and power; and he’s become something of a gay lib icon too. I commend to you David Macey’s mini-bio: he found himself on the picket line alongside your man Sartre on a couple of occasions when protesting the French police or prison system.

  • #315 Kseniya
    April 30, 2008

    “Couldn’t relate to her”

    LOL! Perfect! :-D

    Etha, on the 0.01% change that you’ve misunderstood me on some level, I know I’ve got it wrong. That’s exactly the problem, eh? The “right” interpretation is so damned oppressive.

    The Babel story is a perfect example of what’s so twisted about the whole mindset. (Good choice, btw.) I take heart in knowing that our skyscrapers, aircraft and spacecraft aren’t continually tumbling to the ground at the push of a terrible finger…

    I believe I wrote. Not that I believe in a creator-god who’s waiting for us to grow up — what I mean is, if there is such an entity, it sure as hell isn’t the capricious, bearded thunderer of the Old Testament.

    [Insert Ellison, Pullman, and other gnostic references here.]

  • #316 Charlie Foxtrot
    April 30, 2008

    sui generis???
    I guess that must be Ellen-De’s sister…

    but I thought she was unique, one of a kind…?

  • #317 Kseniya
    April 30, 2008

    Sigh. I am getting SO sick of my own crappy proofreading.

  • - “On the off chance that …”
  • - “I believe what I wrote.”

    (Brain fatigue is a terrible thing.)

  • #318 Pyre
    April 30, 2008

    If it’s any comfort, Kseniya, upon reading your correction @ 316, I went back and re-read your 314, and was amazed to see there the errors you corrected — because the first time through, I’d mistakenly read them as you meant them, rather than as you actually typed them.

    Sort of like someone meaning to type “the” actually types “teh”, but others read it as “the” anyway; the static in the receiver corrected the static in the transmission.

    So, tree-falls-in-woods-and-nobody-hears-it style, did the typos actually occur?

  • #319 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    @#314 Kseniya —

    Nah, I didn’t misunderstand you, just being sarcastic. Channeling our dear friend Kenny a bit.

    You have no idea how much the Babel story horrifies me though. The OT (and NT) god did a lot of really awful stuff — slaughtering infants, wiping out entire cities, damning all of humanity for one woman’s curiosity, turning someone into a pillar of salt (okay, that one’s so out there it’s actually kind of funny) — but of all of them, I don’t think I’ve ever been so utterly horrified as while rereading the story of Babel. It’s so…wrong. I think god here goes against pretty much everything I believe in: the desire to achieve things, the desire to understand each other as fellow human beings, the desire to cooperate with one another constructively.

    The fact that anyone can look at YHWH and see a being deserving of any respect at all — let alone total adoration and worship — is really saddening.

    This is seriously upsetting me more than it probably should…I just wrote a very long, very angry analysis of this passage in my blog….

  • #320 Kseniya
    April 30, 2008

    Wow. It’s been a while since I read that story. The utter immorality of it kind of scares me now.

    Yeah. The utter immorality of it… Think of all the suffering caused by the tribalism imposed upon us, against our will, by our kind and loving creator!

    You know what’s even more scary? That a good number of people believe it to be (a) literally true, (b) inerrant on every level, and (c) our own damned fault, thanks to that accursed apple!

    It doesn’t trouble me in the least as a myth explaining the diversity of peoples, cultures, and languages around the earth. But as an example of the very real behavior of a supposedly divine being who wants us to be his worshipful, grateful, and adoring sheep? Uhh… No. I think there’s a cookbook somewhere in that version of the story.

  • #321 norca66
    April 30, 2008

    I said nothing of established religions and their well established failures. It’s a simple fact we all face. We are here, and what we know, is not equal to what we yearn to know. That is why we strive… especially for social dominance;)

  • #322 Kseniya
    April 30, 2008

    I think god here goes against pretty much everything I believe in: the desire to achieve things, the desire to understand each other as fellow human beings, the desire to cooperate with one another constructively.

    I am so with you on that. It’s making me feels sorta weird, now, too… LOL… sad and depressed, even. I guess it must be bedtime.

    Nitol. :-)

  • #323 Kseniya
    April 30, 2008

    We are here, and what we know, is not equal to what we yearn to know. That is why we strive…

    Indeed.

    …especially for social dominance;)

    Point taken.

  • #324 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    It doesn’t trouble me in the least as a myth explaining the diversity of peoples, cultures, and languages around the earth.

    IDK…it kind of bothers me even on that level, since along with the explanation of the diversity of peoples, cultures, and languages is the implicit moral principle that this was done to prevent cooperation and achievement.

    Surely they could have come up with something better?! Anything, really. Fuck, they could say that God whisked people away to learn about other parts of the world and then for no apparent reason possessed them so that they spoke in tongues. At least it would be more moral than this piece of crap story.

    (Yeah, sometimes I get really unreasonably upset about these things…:\)

    And I’m with you on the depressed & sad. Totally with you…

  • #325 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    And while we’re on the dual subjects of child abuse and theistic outrages committed in the name of language…

    In the 13th century, Emperor Friedrich II of Germany raised a number of children in total silence, hoping that eventually they would start speaking the “language of God.”

    Predictably but nonetheless tragically, the children never spoke a word, “the language of God” was never discovered (or maybe it was; it was silence), and the children eventually all died.

    That’s religious “science” for you….

  • #326 MikeM
    April 30, 2008
  • #327 RamblinDude
    April 30, 2008

    “Yeah. The utter immorality of it… Think of all the suffering caused by the tribalism imposed upon us, against our will, by our kind and loving creator!”

    Tsk, tsk, I can see that neither of you understand God’s infinite love.

    When one is truly subservient to the Lord’s will then miracles happen!!

    Because Shadrak, Meshak and Abednego were obedient servants and followed God’s commandment not to eat of the unclean meat, they were able to stand untouched inside a fiery furnace while those around them were burned to death! Glory to God!

    And because Joshua obeyed God and circled a city seven times, God caused the walls of Jericho to fall down and the city was completely destroyed and Joshua’s army was able to kill every man, woman, and child! Praise God!!

    You are both young, but someday you will see that being obedient to God enriches one’s life and gives one great power! Glory to God!!

    (Okay, I have to stop now, I’m feeling a little nauseous)

  • #328 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    @#326 RamblinDude —

    When one is truly subservient to the Lord’s will then miracles happen!!

    Because Shadrak, Meshak and Abednego were obedient servants and followed God’s commandment not to eat of the unclean meat, they were able to stand untouched inside a fiery furnace while those around them were burned to death! Glory to God!

    And because Joshua obeyed God and circled a city seven times, God caused the walls of Jericho to fall down and the city was completely destroyed and Joshua’s army was able to kill every man, woman, and child! Praise God!!

    Sadly, your statement bears an eerie resemblance to Psalm 2:

    II. 1Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

    2The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,

    3Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

    4He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision.

    5Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.

    6Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

    7I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

    8Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

    9Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

    10Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.

    11Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

    12Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

    (Taken from the KJV, because no other English translation so aptly captures the true spirit of God’s vengeful, grandiloquent love.)

  • #329 Interrobang
    April 30, 2008

    You can use the voice-altering thing in the preferences

    So why should it be her responsibility to prevent them from engaging in their nasty behaviour? News flash: It’s not women’s job to make men behave. (Saying so is rapist logic, for what it’s worth. Please tell me you’re not a rape apologist.)

    Count me as another woman in IT. I’m now the head software tester at my company; I took over the job from the man who had been doing it. I can build a computer from parts and did my first Linux install before I ever did a Windows install. Take your sexism some other place.

    Incidentally, if we didn’t have all this religion cluttering up the world, probably the proposition that women are also people and entitled to all the rights and responsibilities apportioned thereto wouldn’t be so incredibly controversial…

  • #330 Kseniya
    April 30, 2008

    RambDude, you’re a very, very evil wise man.

    Etha:

    the implicit moral principle that this was done to prevent cooperation and achievement.

    Yes, yes, but the subtext is revealing in a way that encourages me: This was done to eliminate the competition!

    That’s right, and No Way would an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent god have done such a thing. Factor in the “us” (which you’ve already pointed out) and what do we have? We have the act of a flawed, insecure, power-grasping deity, one who’s worried about the security of his seat in the firmament and who’s part of a larger pantheon of (comparably flawed) deities. The entity responsible for Babel may as well have been Loki, The Trickster.

  • Gnostics: 1
  • Monotheistic Literalists: 0.

    Ok, now I’m really going to sleep. :-)

  • #331 RamblinDude
    April 30, 2008

    Etha,
    As disturbing as those verses are, it’s even more disturbing that throughout this land there a millions of people who go to weekly prayer meetings to study this stuff, assiduously, in order to apply it to their lives.

    I gotta go.

  • #332 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    @#329 Kseniya —

    We have the act of a flawed, insecure, power-grasping deity, one who’s worried about the security of his seat in the firmament and who’s part of a larger pantheon of (comparably flawed) deities.

    Personally, I think it’s just another case of an insecure male over-compensating. I mean, look at what he’s feeling threatened by…a fucking *tower*. How more overtly phallic can you get before you turn your entire mythology into a subject for Freudian analysis?

    Also, the raping a virgin thing? So not cool…

  • #333 DLC
    April 30, 2008

    I had a sharp and profoundly acidic rant in mind when I started reading the comments on this.
    however, the length of the comments have allowed my blood pressure to return to normal, and at any rate I’ve been up for 33 hours straight and just don’t have the energy for eloquence. However, I feel compelled to make a couple of points.
    First: I gather from the post, and some of the replies, that these people were not only prey of witch-doctors, but wannabe witch doctors themselves. They wanted a miracle, and were willing to sacrifice their daughter to get one. They got no miracle and lost the daughter and three other children into the bargain. They face jail time and possibly even permanent loss of control of their surviving children.
    They have been held up to public scorn and ridicule.
    All for good reasons. This is the dirty, vile end of religion which has caused nothing but death and misery for over 2000 years. to paraphrase their own holy book:
    When I was a child I thought childish thoughts and did childish things. Now I am a man and I must think as a man and act as a man. Is it not clear that this religiosity,
    this following of the witch doctors is the thoughts and acts of children ? Can we not put away this childish thing?
    Finally, some have said that they fear these followers of the witch-doctors. There is reason to be apprehensive.
    As for me, I do not fear them, I despise them.

  • #334 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    @#330 RamblinDude —

    As disturbing as those verses are, it’s even more disturbing that throughout this land there a millions of people who go to weekly prayer meetings to study this stuff, assiduously, in order to apply it to their lives.

    What’s even more disturbing is that these people then turn around and tell us we have no morals.

  • #335 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    @#332 DLC —

    They wanted a miracle, and were willing to sacrifice their daughter to get one.

    It’s the story of Abraham and Isaac all over again, except this time, God forgot to step in and say, “Just kidding!”

    (And here’s the really depressing part: Abraham is held up to be a model patriarch in Judeo-Christian mythology. Take the following words of a Xian children’s song:

    Father Abraham had many sons
    Many sons had Father Abraham
    I am one of them and so are you
    So let’s all praise the Lord.

    Ummm…no thanks. I think I can do without being the child of a patriarch who is willing to slaughter his own child at God’s beck and call. Being the child of our last universal ancestor seems like a much better option….)

  • #336 norca66
    April 30, 2008

    Thanks for an engaging exchange, Kseniya. I like your intellect. Hate to talk all dirty like that :)

  • #337 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    Not to self-promote, but:

    My take on this whole shameful incident and its basis in biblical morality.

  • #338 Hematite
    April 30, 2008

    Jeepers, what a discussion! I almost regret my policy of reading all the comments before I respond. I posted in the “Proposed site redesign” story that a threaded mode would be great to make long discussions like this easier to follow, but I digress.

    Super Reply Mode – Engage!

  • #339 Hematite
    April 30, 2008

    Re: Evolution in action

    As Jim A (#197) and Kseniya (#119) so rightly point out, it’s an issue of memetics (much as I hate the term) not genetics. While the parents have demonstrably reduced their reproductive viability (BY KILLING THEIR CHILD), it is not because of genetic factors and is not heritable except in that parents tend to pass their beliefs on to their children.

    There is also the consideration that in normal evolution offspring which do not survive are unlucky or were maladapted to their environment. Nature is red in tooth and claw. This poor girl had intelligent (technically) but criminally negligent parents who stood by and watched her die. As humans we hold ourselves above natural selection and do not accept that chance, disease or poor adaption are right or just reasons to let somebody die. To state otherwise is to commit the naturalistic fallacy, which reasonable people abhor, particularly in cases of life and death.

    In summary, this case is not an example of evolutionary pressure on genes. It is an example of a poisonous and irrational idea leading to the death of a girl.

  • #340 Ichthyic
    April 30, 2008

    it is not because of genetic factors and is not heritable except in that parents tend to pass their beliefs on to their children.

    actually, that might not be quite accurate.

    there are several studies now suggesting a heritable component to extreme religious behavior.

    There was a twin study discussed on Pandas Thumb a few years back, for example.

    I can dig up the references, if you like.

    there is also a decent overview of the subject in this book:

    http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=t777347226

  • #341 Ichthyic
    April 30, 2008

    some articles worth reading on the subject:

    http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/160/11/1965?%20the%20study

    http://www.atypon-link.com/AAP/doi/pdf/10.1375/twin.2.2.59

    second one is pdf and is a basic review published in 1999.

    there was some popular news coverage of the issue in the late 90’s/early 2000’s too.

  • #342 bernarda
    April 30, 2008

    A French catholic organization did a poll of Europeans and Americans about their knowledge and use of the bible.

    http://www.lefigaro.fr/actualites/2008/04/29/01001-20080429ARTFIG00019-la-france-mauvaise-eleve-pour-la-connaissance-de-la-bible-.php

    partial translation,

    “France is the country most affected by the disappearance of religion in the public forum, and by consequence in private life.”

    “Contrary to a lot of other countries, religion is not a part of culture in France. It is very marginal.”

    49% of the French said they never prayed. In the U.S., 87% said they prayed and 63% said they prayed every day. In France, less than 50% of the people had a bible at home, while in the U.S. only seven percent didn’t have one.

    The U.S. has a long way to go before becoming a rational country.

  • #343 Hematite
    April 30, 2008

    Re: Section 948.04 (6)

    First, June (#88).

    Under the common law … a crime requires both criminal intent and action.

    As a rule of thumb, certainly. But every jurisdiction has laws about manslaughter and criminal negligence which apply when crimes have been committed due to stupidity or carelessness rather than malice.

    Now…

    Section 948.04 (6) TREATMENT THROUGH PRAYER. A person is not guilty of an offense under this section solely because he or she provides a child with treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone for healing in accordance with the religious method of healing permitted under s. 48.981 (3) (c) 4. or 448.03 (6) in lieu of medical or surgical treatment.

    I’m with Leo Tarvi (#267) on this one. I don’t think Etha (#282) quite caught his meaning. Still, it’s not clear cut and I’m unhappy that the law exists at all and could be argued in court.

    I will try and highlight the difference I see between Leo and Etha’s interpretations

    Case 1: Girl has a fever, parents only pray for her and she recovers.
    Case 2: Girl has a fever, parents only pray for her and she suffers mild brain damage.

    Leo argues that in case 1 the parents are protected because by Section 948.04 (6) they are “not guilty of an offense … solely because [they provide] treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone … in lieu of medical or surgical treatment [though they may be guilty for other reasons]”, so as much as concerned neighbours might like to set child services on the parents, they cannot be charged specifically with providing prayer instead of proper medical attention, and there are no other complaints to answer. However in case 2 there is the additional complaint that the parents allowed permanent harm to come to the girl by denying her medical treatment – which they are not protected from.

    In Etha’s interpretation the parents are also protected in case 2 because they are “not guilty of an offense… because [they provide] treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone … in lieu of medical or surgical treatment”.

    The correct interpretation hinges on the meaning of “solely”. It is either a bad law or a disgustingly bad law. Leo’s interpretation is like saying that dangerous driving is not a crime as long as you don’t actually hurt somebody. Etha’s is like saying that dangerous driving is not a crime if you were too drunk or stupid to know any better.

    I apologise if I have misreperesented Leo or Etha, or if you feel that my elipses have been misleading.

  • #344 Hematite
    April 30, 2008

    Thank you Ichthyic, the links are appreciated. When making such posts I always worry about finding the right point between overstating my position (as I may have just done) and making a wishy-washy meaningless statement.

  • #345 Hematite
    April 30, 2008

    Re: Bad statistics about deaths from malpractice

    The link below shows that a search brought up 172 children who died in 20 years of “Religious Medical Neglect”(?) But it doesn’t come close to 250,000 (plus 238,337 in the Medicare system) by malpractice of the medical establishment. Common sense tells us that it’s neglect if you don’t trust in God.

    Ridiculous lack of appropriate comparison. Just for starters, they should be talking about deaths per 10,000 participants or similar. Does anyone really believe that comparing the absolute number of deaths between [almost the entire United States] and [the occasional nutjobs who reject modern medicine] is useful? Even if you scale the numbers to deaths per 10,000 participants, the second group will have error bars up the wazoo.

    OK, I’m done with my mathematical indignation now.

  • #346 Hematite
    April 30, 2008

    Re: Bad statistics about deaths from malpractice

    BlueIndependent (#134):

    I call BS on the “172 in 20″ claim too. In the last 4 months I’ve heard of AT LEAST 3 cases of prayer-motivated child deaths.

    3 cases per 4 months = 9 cases per year
    9 cases per year over 20 years = 180 cases, a lot like 172

    Of course, that’s if you assume that every case is publicised. And not that I disagree with your sentiment. Just being a math nazi.

  • #347 Hematite
    April 30, 2008

    Re: The IT girl

    gex:

    My girlfriend dislikes playing on XBox Live because it turns out that when you get bunches of young white guys together with anonymity, many like be as vocally and vilely racist, sexist, and homophobic as possible.

    Indeed. I’m an almost-young white guy, and even from my superficially-conforming perspective, voice chat is a great reason to avoid a game. Even the text channels in Counter Strike are abominable. You cited XKCD and I assume you’d be familiar with Penny Arcade, but I haven’t seen anyone cite John Gabriel’s G.I.F.T yet.

  • #348 negentropyeater
    April 30, 2008

    Bernarda #341,

    and I can’t stop reminding myself how at the root Frankin, Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Diderot, Voltaire, Rousseau were all so close … And nowadays, we are so far apart. So strange how history writes itself.

  • #349 Andreas Johansson
    April 30, 2008

    Re: the It Girl/I.T. Girl thing, I wondered which was meant – the former made more sense, the capitalization suggested the later.

    Re: America, irrationality, and Bible knowledge, remember that survey of Huckabee supporters? The majority had a flunk sunday school level of familiarity of the Bible. A survey by the Swedish Bible commission back in the ’80s had a similar result – the large majority of Christians rarely if ever read the Bible. Meanwhile, as can be seen in this very thread, plenty non-believers are quite familiar with the book. I’m forced to conclude that Bible knowledge and use is largely useless as a predictor of belief or rationality.

    Finally, Pastor Bob? Are we being Poe’d by some Piranha Club fan?

  • #350 Hematite
    April 30, 2008

    Re: Lets throw them in prison and rape them repeatedly LOL

    Respect to Nick Gotts at #220. Retributive prison rape is a profoundly disgusting idea and it seems to be firmly entrenched in the mindset of some people. I know the death of this girl is a very emotional subject and you need to blow off steam, but I wish you’d tone down the casual barbarism.

    I firmly believe that the highest punishment it is ethical to inflict is excision from society. Practically, this would be life in prison without parole. The most important thing is to prevent further crimes, although I am open to arguments about the deterrent value of visible punishment.

    The finer points of crime and punishment aside, if anyone would like to seriously suggest that retributive rape is a moral act I’m prepared to wage a bitter flame war all up and down teh internets.

  • #351 Hematite
    April 30, 2008

    Re: feet washing

    Nentuaby (#223):

    In modern form the ritual is often performed by children simply because that’s the traditional of it. It’s not really all that weird, in context.

    Thanks for the explanation, but I respectfully disagree that it’s not weird. Even knowing the context, it’s as kooky as that mayor the other day with his sack cloth and ashes. Or saying the pledge of allegience in schools.

    Well, maybe weird is relative. I didn’t grow up with this kind of bible craziness, in my family or in my community.

  • #352 Hematite
    April 30, 2008

    Re: Nihilism
    Marcus Ranum (#229):

    There is no evidence that your life or mine or anyone else’s has any meaning. In fact, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence indicates that “meaning” you “create” is just a closely held personal delusion – just like any other form of faith. You may as well convince yourself you’re going to heaven for your good deeds – it’s going to work as well and mean as much in the end.

    All quite true. There is no all-father to praise you (well, except Odin). There is no objective standard for UR DOIN IT WRONG. Recently out of religion Marcus, or just playing philosophical games?

    Ascribing your own meaning to life is very liberating. Nobody’s going to send you to hell. You’re free to choose philosophical values that don’t conflict with empirical evidence, and define ‘fun’ and ‘success’ however they appeal to you.

    frog (#272):

    In the end, nihilism is the dead end of religion. It recognizes that God is dead, but goes no further to abandon the absurd neo-Platonic assumptions that allowed one to fantasize the existence of God in the first place. It is the cold comfort of masochism when sadism is denied us.

    Nicely put! I also tip my hat to Lee at #266

  • #353 Hematite
    April 30, 2008

    Re: I just wanna do a sheep

    Etha (#292)

    Is it just me, or do does the one guy look like he’s miming sodomizing the other guy at 1:24? I know they’re supposed to be miming sheep sheering, but really.

    Ah, they’d be using the Australian method.

    /me waits for a nibble on the line…

  • #354 Hematite
    April 30, 2008

    Re: Happy God, or vengeful God?

    Etha (#323)

    [The Babylon myth] kind of bothers me even on that level, since along with the explanation of the diversity of peoples, cultures, and languages is the implicit moral principle that this was done to prevent cooperation and achievement.

    Oh Etha, if it weren’t for the Old Testament God, where would we get the great scripts for Biblical epics? It’s fantastic, you can have a disaster movie AND an evil villain at the same time!

    Sorry if I’m being flippant; I count myself a second or third generation atheist from a magical land where nobody takes the bible literally. Of course, the American military would crush us between breakfast and morning tea so I appreciate the fight to keep the rabid fundies out of office.

  • #355 Hematite
    April 30, 2008

    Re: Faith healing
    Rev. BigDumbChimp (#5) and Etha Williams (#61) commented on:

    While it is true that God created the world and all that is in it, including doctors, we must note: Jesus never sent anyone to a doctor or a hospital. Jesus offered healing by one means only! Healing was by faith. Yes, God created doctors but only to give man a choice between man’s ways — the doctor — or His way — faith!

    Whenever I read things like that, I imagine an atheist (let’s call him… Poe) and a credulous believer (Creo) talking, some time in the past.

    Creo: My faith says that if we trust in the LORD and reject worldly goods, he will provide for us from His bounty.
    Poe: That’s ludicrous. It’s like saying that life saving medicine is just there to tempt you, and your God will save you if you just wish hard enough!
    Creo: *light bulb*
    Poe: Hey, where are you going? To take some medicine, right?

  • #356 SteveM
    April 30, 2008

    While it is true that God created the world and all that is in it, including doctors, we must note: Jesus never sent anyone to a doctor or a hospital. Jesus offered healing by one means only! Healing was by faith. Yes, God created doctors but only to give man a choice between man’s ways — the doctor — or His way — faith!

    This is what happens when you turn off your rational mind. Was 1st century medicine capable of raising the dead, or curing blindness or leprosy, etc? All of Jesus’ healing miracles were for the incurable. Did Jesus ever forbid anyone from seeking conventional medical help? To make the jump from “he only healed by miracles” to “conventional medicine is forbidden” is just ludicrous.
    And I think they have totally missed the point of the “render unto Caesar” speech. It is not about just paying one’s taxes. It is about the separation of the material world and the spiritual world. That the things of the material world must be addressed as much as the things of the spiritual world. The body is of the material world and should be treated by all material means available. Pray for her spirit, sure, but call the doctor for her illness. There is a saying in one of the “voyage of sinbad” movies, “Trust in Allah, but tie your camel”.

  • #357 negentropyeater
    April 30, 2008

    I think you are being harsh on Marcus, Nihilism is a very personal position, it depends on a lot of factors, where one finds oneself in life, what one is made of. It can be intellectually very rewarding. I don’t understand these people who because THEY don’t see any value in a particular philosophical stance just make those very general negative statements. This is a lack of maturity. Sorry.
    I don’t think it’s a matter of being recently out of religion. Some people need to deconstruct. We all go through different periods in our lives.

    And then, please,
    “It is the cold comfort of masochism when sadism is denied us.”
    What on earth does that mean ?

  • #358 windy
    April 30, 2008

    Ok, maybe that’s the Childhood’s End in me talking, but dammit, that’s what I think. The “Father” paradigm, as realized by most manifestations of Abrahamic religion, debases us all – the creator-god included.

    Well put. BTW, don’t you think that “Affable Grandpa” (or a Grandma) would be a much healthier model for a deity than “Overbearing Dad”? Someone who’d send us money inside birthday cards and whittle and tell war stories, but who’d not try to manage our personal lives…

  • #359 Iain Walker
    April 30, 2008

    Re Comment #21:

    Since the same type of Christianity that relies on faith-healing is also notably anti-contraception/pro-large family, we cannot rely on evolutionary algorithms do get rid of such people.

    Ah, the r-selection strategy:

    “In unstable or unpredictable environments r-selection predominates, as the ability to reproduce quickly is crucial, and there is little advantage in adaptations that permit successful competition with other organisms, because the environment is likely to change again. Traits that are thought to be characteristic of r-selection include: high fecundity, small body size, short generation time, and the ability to disperse offspring widely. Organisms whose life history is subject to r-selection are often referred to as r-strategists or r-selected. Organisms with r-selected traits range from bacteria and diatoms, through insects and weeds, to various semelparous cephalopods and mammals, especially small rodents.”
    From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K-selection#r-selection

  • #360 Hematite
    April 30, 2008

    I was reading Marcus (#229) as a hostile response to Etha (#133). He’s certainly being a negative pain in the ass. Conflating conscience and purpose with religion has a trollish air to it. I don’t have a problem with nihilism as a philosophy other than that it is of little utility, and a nihilist is not likely to respect my aspirations if given power over me – we’re all dust in the end anyway. I’m interested to see what Marcus has to say on the matter.

    “It is the cold comfort of masochism when sadism is denied us.”

    OK, I could have snipped that bit. I don’t know what to make of it either. I agree strongly with the rest of the paragraph as a response to “If you give up God, there is no morality or meaning in the world”.

    Yes, I got my “Marcus is being hostile” mixed in with my “post-religion nihilism”.

  • #361 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 30, 2008

    And to think that the whole Babel story is just a case of mistaken folk etymology… if Akkadian/Babylonian/Assyrian hadn’t lost the glottal stop, this whole story wouldn’t even exist, because would have been properly understood because bab-ilu would have been properly understood as “divine water”… <cringe>

    Nitol.

    ?

  • #362 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 30, 2008

    WTF? How on the planet did that line get duplicated? Kindly ignore “would have been properly understood because”.

  • #363 RamblinDude
    April 30, 2008

    “It is the cold comfort of masochism when sadism is denied us”

    I believe this is a commentary on the mindset of one who embraces the sadistic god of the bible in the first place. Projection.

    I think I agree.

    In the end, sadism, masochism–two sides of the same coin.

  • #364 frog
    April 30, 2008

    negentropyeater: “And then, please,
    “It is the cold comfort of masochism when sadism is denied us.”
    What on earth does that mean ?”

    It’s not that complicated. Much of current religion is simply disguised sadism – Nietzche et. al. It doesn’t take a degree in Freudian psychoanalysis to see the repressed sadism in “End Times” literature.

    So, what happens when you reject the rationalisms that justify the sadism? You turn to masochism, like a pre-teen girl cutting herself because she really wants to kill her mother.

    It’s a bit poetic, I’ll agree, but sometimes it’s clearer in poetry.

    I disagree people are being tough on Marcus – no one called him a cretin or a monster (like the response to Kenny and such). Folks were just trying to point out that there is a step beyond nihilism, that it is a philosophical and social dead end.

    In philly: Yes, Derrida is actually the father of deconstructionism – you’re right that I was using language fast and free to describe a wider philosophical movement with which I have a few bones to pick. That’s why I described Foucault as a mid-stage in degrading (with some very important points and redeeming features).

    Read Chomsky and Foucault’s early ’70’s debate, and you may see where I’m coming from when I accuse him of word games. Like Aristotle, he just doesn’t know when to stop.

  • #365 frog
    April 30, 2008

    David, please expand on “bab-ilu” — I’m missing something with the folk etymology explaining the tail – it’s probably simple, but I haven’t had my coffee yet.

  • #366 RamblinDude
    April 30, 2008

    Nitol.

    LOL. “Night all”

  • #367 Hematite
    April 30, 2008

    Ooh, bad me. It’s all babble to me, never did very well in Sunday School.

  • #368 David Marjanovi?, OM
    April 30, 2008

    please expand on “bab-ilu”

    Really? It’s “Babylon” in the Babylonian original. Bab meaning something like “water” or “body of water” or what do I know, as in the Bab el-Mandeb, the sea straits between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden; ilu is the same (minus the nominative ending -u) as ‘el as explained from here on downwards, where the apostrophe represents this consonant. Unique among the Semitic languages, Akkadian –> Babylonian –> Assyrian had lost that consonant: there’s no way to indicate it in cuneiform. Had it still been present, the Hebrews would have understood the ilu part. But it wasn’t, so they unhesitatingly equated the Babylonian b-b-l with their own b-b-l word, namely babel, which means “confusion”. (This was facilitated by the fact that the vast majority of all Semitic words has three consonants.) Why would a city be called “confusion”? This calls for a story. Voilà.

    LOL. “Night all”

    :-D

  • #369 negentropyeater
    April 30, 2008

    Frog,

    “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”
    It’s been a long time since I’ve read The Gay Science (need to re-read) but if I do recall, Nietzsche did consider Christian morality Nihilistic.
    And I think I’d agree with that. Finding meaning to our existences is a very post modern preoccupation.

    As Freud will tell you, if you deny Sadism, there is no more “cold comfort” in Masochism. There’s nothing left. That’s why your comparison with Nihilism does not stand, despite its poesy.

  • #370 frog
    April 30, 2008

    n: “As Freud will tell you, if you deny Sadism, there is no more “cold comfort” in Masochism. There’s nothing left. That’s why your comparison with Nihilism does not stand, despite its poesy.”

    Deny is not the same thing as abandon. There are steps between rationalizing sadism, repressing sadism, projecting sadism and actually eliminating it. Somewhere along that path, masochism makes a mighty fine replacement.

    I don’t know if Nietzche’s Christian nihilism means the same thing as our current discussion – but then my Nietzche is both rusty and very incomplete (Don’t speak German, and doubt that he is translatable, since his work is primarily metaphorical and poetical). But if so, I’d argue that a No-God nihilism is just the end-point of a God-nihilism – but then again, I’ll argue just about anything!

  • #371 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    The “Father” paradigm, as realized by most manifestations of Abrahamic religion, debases us all – the creator-god included.

    And lest we unduly cast all the blame for this screwed up paradigm on their interpretation of the patriarch god himself, let’s not forget the other great patriarch of Judeo-Xian religion, Abraham. God made him a father figure not despite of the fact, but because of the fact that he was willing to kill his own son at the first word from that selfsame god:

    XXII. 15 Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

    A man is willing to unhesitatingly sacrifice his son, and as a result, God rewards him with *more* children?! How utterly vile! I was pleased to see that there was at least one religious scholar who agreed with me; the early 14th century Rabbi Yosef Ibn Caspi wrote, “How could God command such a revolting thing?” Unfortunately, like most religious scholars, he feels compelled to “answer” this question (read: rationalize), and claims that Abraham’s “imagination” led him astray, making him believe that he had been commanded to sacrifice his son. …right… I could almost get behind this “overactive imagination leads religious people to do crazy things” interpretation, except that then, apparently god is rewarding Abraham for having a profoundly sick imagination. To *imagine* that God wants you to sacrifice your kid — and then to do it? That’s probably even more vile than actually being commanded to.

    Basically, in the Judeo-Xian tradition they have on the one hand a father god who infantilizes them and stints their progress, and on the other hand an ancient patriarch figure who’s willing to kill them if the aforementioned god so much as whispers a word to that effect. (This could maybe be a book — “Christians have Two Daddies”?) How awful! I stand by my statement — our Last Universal Ancestor, a mere prokaryote, was a far better father figure than either of these…

  • #372 Rolan le Gargéac
    April 30, 2008

    #291

    All, we like sheep!
    All we like sheep!

    …have gone astra-a-a-ay.”

    (Monado, no longer in beautiful Revelstoke)

    Monado, this reminds me strongly of the beautiful aria in P.D.Q. Bach’s “Iphigenia in Brooklyn”

    Only he, who is running knows,
    Only he who is running, knows,

    …running knows, running knows.”

  • #373 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    @#354 Hematite —

    Sorry if I’m being flippant; I count myself a second or third generation atheist from a magical land where nobody takes the bible literally.

    It sounds so idyllic…

    Though honestly, someone taking the Babel story figuratively kind of depresses me too, since they’d probably still get the same moral out of it :\. Oh well.

  • #374 cicely
    April 30, 2008

    Etha @ 335:
    I think I can do without being the child of a patriarch who is willing to slaughter his own child at God’s beck and call.

    Well, but you see, it wasn’t as if god wasn’t expecting Abraham to do anything he wouldn’t do, himself. Even more so; he engendered his son for no other reason than to sacrifice him, rather than just forgive the descendents of the people who offended him. Omnipotence doesn’t extend to having the ability to offer a pardon?

    /tongue in cheek

    (BTW, I’ve checked out your blog; mighty fine! Now if only I could get it to take my comments….)

  • #375 Rolan le Gargéac
    April 30, 2008

    #272
    In the end, nihilism is the dead end of religion. It recognizes that God is dead, but goes no further to abandon the absurd neo-Platonic assumptions that allowed one to fantasize the existence of God in the first place. It is the cold comfort of masochism when sadism is denied us.

    This is just so Sokal & Bricmont I can’t believe it’s not realité !

  • #376 windy
    April 30, 2008

    Basically, in the Judeo-Xian tradition they have on the one hand a father god who infantilizes them and stints their progress, and on the other hand an ancient patriarch figure who’s willing to kill them if the aforementioned god so much as whispers a word to that effect. (This could maybe be a book — “Christians have Two Daddies”?)

    ROTFL! We have a winner!

    Another strange thing is that the attitude of “I’ll decide how I raise my kids, no one else!” seems to correlate with the notion that God can just take away your kids at any moment if he feels like it. I know that God taking away your kids is, in this mindset, something completely different from the government taking away your kids, but why is that, really? Would you just hand away your children to the first disembodied entity that comes asking?

  • #377 frog
    April 30, 2008

    Rolan,

    You do recognize the difference between a poetic statement on poetry, and a poetic statement trying to pass itself off as an analytic statement in an analytic sphere, don’t you? You’d be right if I was applying literary analysis to physics – but that subjunctive is missing. I don’t think Sokal & Bricmont mean what you think they mean…

    Did my statement have scientific jargon? Did it claim to be a scientific conclusion, ready to publish in Nature? Or do you throw everything that isn’t science under the rubric of “fashionable nonsense”? What a narrow world you live in… One would be tempted to call it a nihilistic world view, but only in the most vulgar fashion.

    A valid criticism is that my rhetoric sucks, that my meter is off, or that my metaphors don’t tie into their counter-parts in Christianity. But to reference Sokal is simply vacuous snideness, like criticizing a scientific paper for a pedantic meter (there a reference to Sokal would actually make sense).

    Lord, I do hate post-modernists – and I hate almost as much reflexive anti-postmodernists. One ring to rule them all is the motto, I guess.

  • #378 Kseniya
    April 30, 2008

    David/RamDude: Yup, “nitol” = “‘night, all.” It’s also a pun on “Nytol” – a pharmaceutical sleep aid. One of my old chatroom buddies used to sign off that way. I liked it. (He was an interesting guy – a linquist, a dyslexic, an OEC Mormon. I adored him, actually. I never did get into a real convo about his reasons for choosing OEC over macroevo. I wasn’t ready to have that conversation a few years ago…)

    Etha:

    To *imagine* that God wants you to sacrifice your kid — and then to do it?

    *glances up at the OP*

    That kinda brings us full circle here, doesn’t it?

    ?O_o?

  • #379 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    @#374 cicely —

    (BTW, I’ve checked out your blog; mighty fine! Now if only I could get it to take my comments….)

    What commenting difficulties are you having?

  • #380 sphex
    April 30, 2008

    @Etha #277

    (For the morbidly curious, the song is online here.)

    Oh dear oh dear oh dear. I just watched that video, and I will probably be giggling all day! That is hysterically funny.

    (Of course, it’s only funny if you manage to momentarily ignore how depressing and terrifying the image of a stadium full of kids saying “I want to be a sheep” is. ack.)

  • #381 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    @#380 sphex —

    Of course, it’s only funny if you manage to momentarily ignore how depressing and terrifying…

    I think this could be a template for the beginning of statements about many religious things.

  • #382 Kseniya
    April 30, 2008

    Hematite:

    As Jim A (#197) and Kseniya (#119) so rightly point out, it’s an issue of memetics (much as I hate the term) not genetics.

    I must point out that EntoAggie stated the case rather well – and without using the M-word – in comment #117.

  • #383 Rolan le Gargéac
    April 30, 2008

    #377

    Ooh, I enjoyed that… Calma Bucefalo! Er, all I meant to say, well ,point out, was that you are talking bollocks, however subtle your ever widening gyre. Ooh, too vulgar ! So sorry. But I would like you to explain what this
    “In the end, nihilism is the dead end of religion. It recognizes that God is dead, but goes no further to
    abandon the absurd neo-Platonic assumptions that allowed one to fantasize the existence of God in the first
    place. It is the cold comfort of masochism when sadism is denied us.”

    actually means. Because I think we know, don’t weeeeeee….

  • #384 Rolan le Gargéac
    April 30, 2008

    #377

    Ooh, I enjoyed that… Calma Bucefalo! Er, all I meant to say, well ,point out, was that you are talking bollocks. However you may spin in your ever widening gyre. Ooh, too vulgar ! So sorry. But I would like you to explain what this
    “In the end, nihilism is the dead end of religion. It recognizes that God is dead, but goes no further to abandon the absurd neo-Platonic assumptions that allowed one to fantasize the existence of God in the first
    place. It is the cold comfort of masochism when sadism is denied us.”

    actually means.

  • #385 frog
    April 30, 2008

    Rolan,

    Yes, I got that. It’s just that you picked the wrong bollocks to accuse me of. You specifically picked the Sokal affair, which was about a specific kind of BS – about pseudo-scientific BS masquerading as science in order to undermine science. If you just meant “I call BS”, then you should have called it outright, rather than trying to be subtle, and failing at it miserably. And the BS call should be preferably in specific, enumerated form.

    What did I mean prosaicly? Well, it ain’t all that heard, buckaroo. Nihilism, like religion, assumes the possibility of a universal viewpoint (even if it denies that that viewpoint is actually a filled position). At least specifically the kind of Nihilism that Marcus was expounding.

    So, just as many gods get cut down to one active god, then that active god gets cut down to an abstract god, then that abstract god gets cut down to the Newtonian Deistic god, eventually you get down to a dead god. But they all carry the assumption that moral values, meaning, etc, come from a universal judgment; the Marcus-style nihilist just goes one step further by saying that since god is dead, therefore there is no meaning. No judge, no judgment.

    The final line is also pretty simple. When you stop rationalizing sadism by religion, etc, if you haven’t cleaned out your head and actually abandoned the sadistic urge, people have a tendency to replace it with masochism. Nihilism is emotionally masochistic (in the Marcus vein), by abandoning the satisfaction of meaning and value. If you can’t kick your brother, you kick your dog; if you can’t kick your dog, you kick yourself; if you can’t kick yourself, you can always dream of kicking yourself.

    See – not that complicated, but quite a bit more verbose than the poetical form.

    You do see that it’s actually much more polite (and reasonable), to actually point out where something might be nonesense, than to just blurt it out (particularly when doing it under your breath in a cowardly manner)? Specifics, Rolan, specifics! No one likes reviewers that say “BS in general”, instead of saying “X is BS” and “Y is BS” and “Z is BS”. Just trying to be helpful…

  • #386 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    @#384 frog —

    See – not that complicated, but quite a bit more verbose than the poetical form.

    I’d like to chime in and add that as someone who did understand the poetical form the first time ’round, I appreciated it for its linguistic elegance. I’d probably have skimmed over the verbose version and gotten a general idea of the point, but to me, the poetical version conveyed the spirit of frog’s meaning much more elegantly and effectively.

    That said, if you don’t understand the meaning of such a thing, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for clarification. Politely.

  • #387 cicely
    April 30, 2008

    Etha @379

    Not sure what I’m doing wrong; I’m just not that computer-savvy. I plan to have my husband watch over my shoulder, sometime tonight or tomorrow, and determine in what way it is user error.

  • #388 Chuck Lunney
    April 30, 2008

    I wrote the following column for the Kansas City Star newspaper’s Faith section this last weekend. It seems especially appropriate, given this topic.

    ———————————

    http://www.kansascity.com/656/story/591585.html

    Saving Lives is Better Than Saying Prayers

    I’m sure that many readers have heard that Thursday, May 1st is the “National Day of Prayer”. It’s supposed to be a day when believers of all faiths gather to kneel down and pray for healing, hope and peace (at least, I certainly hope that’s what most people would pray for).

    I do appreciate the sentiment, and I know prayer makes those doing the praying feel better, but unfortunately prayer is one of the most objectively ineffective and useless forms of assistance. Other than making those doing the praying “feel better,” numerous studies have shown time and again that prayer fails to benefit those who are prayed for, and at best it is no better than a placebo. As an atheist, that just seems like a tremendous waste of time and personal effort, which I’d prefer to see spent in a more unselfish and demonstrably beneficial way.

    For the last two years I’ve participated in the National Gift of Life Day (see http://www.centerforatheism.org), which is an organized effort to get atheists, agnostics and nonbelievers to donate blood. A single donation of whole blood is one of the most effective proven ways to save lives. It’s also a demonstration of selfless sacrifice and altruistic caring about the rest of humanity.

    I don’t know who will receive the blood I donate — he or she could be black, white, Asian, gay, racist, Christian, Muslim or atheist — and I don’t care. I am willing to stand on my feet, giving freely and openly of my own flesh and blood to provide a direct and demonstrable part of myself for the benefit of others, as opposed to all those on their knees who are wasting their time doing something that benefits no one but themselves.

    (I realize that there are some, for whatever reason, who cannot donate blood — sexual orientation, travel restrictions, disease history and so forth.)

    For those who are unable to donate, there are many other things you can do Thursday to help — volunteer at a local blood center, encourage your friends, neighbors, co-workers and everyone else to donate, publicize the National Gift of Life Day on your blogs, your Web sites, your calendars and everywhere else. Don’t just sit around. Make a difference for the good of humanity.

    Please, no matter what your beliefs or affiliations, do more than bend your knees in ineffective prayer. Open your hearts to allow the most effective and lifesaving thing you could possibly do — donate your blood to save lives.

    Show the world how ethical, caring and significant the atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists and other nonbelievers can be. Donate and show everyone the way to effectively and rationally make a difference in the world.

    ——————————–

    Let’s all do our part to lessen the irrationality and reliance on ignorance that goes on in this country — please, if possible, donate blood tomorrow.

  • #389 Tom Marking
    April 30, 2008

    I do have one question for P.Z. or anyone else who might want to care to chime in. And that is this. Suppose they had taken their daughter to the ER and the doctors at the ER had been unable to save her. Would you be in favor of imprisoning the doctors at the ER?

    What is the principle being promoted here? Is it that all bad medical outcomes require the punishment of the ones doing them? So if the parents use prayer and the girl dies they must go to prison. By that token, if the doctors use medical procedures and the girl dies the doctors should go to prison too, right?

    I’m sure most people will disagree with the last statement. What I want to know is why, what is the philosophical difference?

    BTW, people die in ER’s everyday and no one goes to prison. There are lots of screwups that hospitals are usually able to cover up like administering the wrong medication or the wrong dosage. Very seldom does a doctor wind up in prison for malpractice even though it happens everyday.

  • #390 ndt
    April 30, 2008

    @#222:

    vengeance is really not something we should wish for

    Speak for yourself.

  • #391 Rolan le Gargéac
    April 30, 2008

    – Duh, ! Sokal-Bricmont is all about style over meaning. And your little paragraph disproves this or ?

    “What did I mean prosaicly?” – Oh yes, and this meaning what is of ?

  • #392 brokenSoldier
    April 30, 2008

    Posted by: Tom Marking | April 30, 2008 4:41 PM

    …what is the philosophical difference?

    The difference is not a philosophical one – it a legal one. The parents willfully withheld their daughter from treatment that has been proven to help those in her condition. That is quite different from getting faulty treatment from a doctor guilty of malpractice. In that case, the doctor would have borne the responsibility for her death. In this case, it rests solely with the parents. In either case, those responsible should pay, and I hope these parents do. It is a very simple concept. They caused the unnecessary death of a child, and even if that is within their established practices – whether guided by religion, philosophy, or even pure opinion – then they must suffer the consequences for such an act as directed by the society we live in. Congress has made legal concession for religious exemption, but in this case, the actions of these parents are not protected by such concessions. They had both a moral and legal obligation to seek care for their child, and failed to do so.

    BTW, people die in ER’s everyday and no one goes to prison. There are lots of screwups that hospitals are usually able to cover up like administering the wrong medication or the wrong dosage. Very seldom does a doctor wind up in prison for malpractice even though it happens everyday.

    Your first statement is true but irrelevant, as most of the deaths that occur in hospitals necessarily occur in the ER – and most of those cases result as such simply because they couldn’t get to the hospital fast enough, and the great majority of these deaths are not crimes, and not even the results of the negligence you so hastily and generally you attributed to “lots of screw-ups.” As for the last sentence, I suggest you go to the state of Mississippi and try to get a decent doctor. Medical malpractice lawsuits are a necessary deterrent to corruption of the medical process, but this state has suffered greatly from a surge in the number of these suits – some justified, but a great many baseless – in recent years, which has resulted in that state becoming a sort of medical no-man’s land for doctors. They stay away, for fear of a frivolous lawsuit. Tell those doctors how seldom this happens, and lets see if they trust in your judgement of the situation and return to practice in MS…

  • #393 EntoAggie
    April 30, 2008

    “Is it that all bad medical outcomes require the punishment of the ones doing them?”

    1. If the medical procedure is completely inappropriate, performed by someone untrained to do it, or grossly botched, then yes, the person performing it should be punished.

    2. What the girl’s parents were doing–praying–was NOT a medical procedure.

    3. If the girl’s parents had taken her to the ER, and she had received treatment that matched one of the conditions in (1), then yes, the doctors should be punished.

    4. However, it is very likely that the girl would have received appropriate care from trained personnel (Type I diabetes, although a disease with terrible consequences, is relatively easy to treat).

    5. If, under the care of (4), she had died anyways, then that would not be considered a “medical mistake.” That would have been the inadequacy of modern medicine to save her. IMPORTANTLY (this is the reaaaallly important part): it would have put her at NO HIGHER RISK of dying than her parents doing nothing, which they chose to do.

    You are trying to compare the risk of her dying from her parents’ “medical procedure” (almost certain) to her risk of dying from a medical mistake at the hospital (almost none). But the appropriate comparison should be to compare the outcome of her parents’ actions with the LIKELY outcome had they taken her to the hospital, which is that she would have been treated and lived.

  • #394 Ron Sullivan
    April 30, 2008

    My, this thread is fun.

    I’m still wondering why the good Christian parents gave the poor kid a MickeyD’s meal instead of waiting for their share of the loaves and fishes–Jesus never mentions a grocery store or restaurant, after all–and, yeah, prayer instead of lawyers would be more consistent.

    I’ve wondered for years why people haven’t bothered to think about why a shepherd, good or otherwise, keeps sheep. They’re not pets. Getting fleeced is only the first taste of their Ultimate Purpose.

  • #395 windy
    April 30, 2008

    What is the principle being promoted here? Is it that all bad medical outcomes require the punishment of the ones doing them? So if the parents use prayer and the girl dies they must go to prison. By that token, if the doctors use medical procedures and the girl dies the doctors should go to prison too, right?

    If the doctors in the ER decide to “use” prayer instead of medical procedures and the girl dies, don’t you think they should go to prison?

  • #396 Nick Gotts
    April 30, 2008

    Suppose they had taken their daughter to the ER and the doctors at the ER had been unable to save her. Would you be in favor of imprisoning the doctors at the ER?

    If they had been guilty of the same kind of arrogant refusal to consult relevant experts when the measures they were taking were clearly not working, yes. This does happen, and I agree with you that doctors sometimes get away with it when they should not. In fact, of course, in this case any remotely competent doctor would swiftly have recognised and treated a diabetic coma; and if the girl had died it would have been because she was brought in too late.

  • #397 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    @#388 Tom Marking —

    Is it that all bad medical outcomes require the punishment of the ones doing them?

    No. Prayer is not a medical procedure, so this was not a medical outcome.

    Medical treatments = proven to be able to help a person with a medical disease
    Prayer = not proven, and often shown to be ineffective, in helping a person with a medical disease

  • #398 Kseniya
    April 30, 2008

    Is Tom Marking for real?

    The parents should be hung, by their tongues, from fishhooks just for feeding a deathly ill girl – ill with diabetes, of all things! – a McDonald’s meal. McDonalds! It’s as if they were TRYING to kill her. Idiots. They may as well have injected glucose and fat directly into her veins. No wonder it was her last.

    Idiots.

    Idiots.

  • #399 kmarissa
    April 30, 2008

    The parents should be hung, by their tongues, from fishhooks just for feeding a deathly ill girl – ill with diabetes, of all things! – a McDonald’s meal.

    Quick question, although it doesn’t much change the tragedy of the case, but does anyone know if the parents actually knew she had diabetes? I had gotten the impression from reading the articles that her parents did not know that she had diabetes (although obviously knew she was deathly ill), but some of the comments suggest that they knew. Out of curiosity, did any of the articles mention this one way or the other?

  • #400 Kseniya
    April 30, 2008

    You know, kmarissa, you may be right. They may not have known. I withdraw the fishhooks.

  • #401 frog
    April 30, 2008

    Rolan: “Duh, ! Sokal-Bricmont is all about style over meaning. And your little paragraph disproves this or ?
    “What did I mean prosaicly?” – Oh yes, and this meaning what is of ?”

    Well, now you’re just trolling. First, Sokal was about a very specific case of style over meaning, where the style is in conflict with the meaning and yet claiming authority from that very meaning. This shit is sophisticated, and ‘ya gotta be sophisticated if ‘ya goin’ to sling it. I doubt that Sokal thinks that rock’n’roll is a great evil, or we should laugh at folks who read fiction.

    And yes, my little paragraph shows that the earlier statement was not devoid of meaning – that it had a very clear meaning that was compressed in poetic form. If you can’t understand that, you have quite a prosaic mind. Having style isn’t the same thing as having style devoid of meaning. We don’t all have to sound like we failed elementary school.

    If you have a problem with the actual points, Point Them Out. Otherwise, you’re just sounding like an ass. If you have a problem with the style (not it’s existence, but the actual application of style), once again, Point It Out. “Your metaphors are for shit” or “Your construction is juvenile in manner X” are vastly more meaningful than “Duh” sounds.

    What does “prosaicly” mean? Well, it might be an infelicitous phrase (i.e., not a well-formed word), but the meaning is clear: an adverbial form of prosaic. If you don’t know what prosaic means, well, it’s possible that English isn’t your native language – but you needn’t act like an ass by projecting your own ignorance. It means in the form of prose, as opposed to poetry (mundane, explicit, …) You know, there are online dictionaries nowadays.

  • #402 kmarissa
    April 30, 2008

    Kseniya, they still definitely deserve all the fishhooks on your line ;)

    Just wanted to be sure there wasn’t some part of the story floating around that I hadn’t heard about yet (i.e., “the doc said she had diabetes, but we told him to keep his insulin!”).

  • #403 Tom Marking
    April 30, 2008

    “It is a very simple concept. They caused the unnecessary death of a child, and even if that is within their established practices – whether guided by religion, philosophy, or even pure opinion – then they must suffer the consequences for such an act as directed by the society we live in.”

    What I am suggesting is that medical ethics are a lot more complicated than this case suggests. Yes, in this case it seems so clear cut – the parents should have taken their daughter to the doctor. But you can change the circumstances just a little and now it’s not so clear.

    1.) Instead of doing nothing the parents attempted homeopathic treatment involving herbal supplements that had been recommended to them by a homeopath. Are they still responsible for the death?

    2.) There are two doctors, a pediatrician and a specialist in some disease. The parents chose to take their daughter to the pediatrician who did not diagnose their child’s symptoms correctly and gave her the wrong medicine. If they had taken their child to the specialist he would have correctly diagnosed her. Are the parents responsible for her death? They chose which doctor to take her to.

    3.) Let’s say that the girl had the flu instead of diabetes. The parents chose to take her to the ER. While waiting to be admitted in the lobby their daughter came into contact with an even sicker child, say suffering from dengue fever or something like that. Their daughter picked up dengue fever from the other child and died the next day. If she had remained at home she would most likely have recovered from the flu in a few days. Are the parents responsible for her death by taking her to the hospital?

    So it’s not so clear anymore with these other hypotheticals, now is it?

  • #404 frog
    April 30, 2008

    SLIPPERY SLOPE! SLIPPERY SLOPE!

    Tom, that argument is so weak. It’s clear that if you do nothing (and prayer is nothing – it actually appears to be worse than nothing), that you’re being neglectful, and that if you take your kid to the ER, you’re not. Some cases in between might be arguable – but that’s life, some cases are tough.

    Stop trying to pretend like there are bright lines in life. So, in short 1) Yes (if they waited as long as that couple to take the kid to the ER), 2) No, 3) No. See, just use those brains God gave you. Just stop throwing up sophomoric “hypotheticals”.

    Tom, what if you were a brain in a box? Would ants still eat at picnics?

  • #405 Ichthyic
    April 30, 2008

    Thank you Ichthyic, the links are appreciated. When making such posts I always worry about finding the right point between overstating my position (as I may have just done) and making a wishy-washy meaningless statement.

    Your point was not lost, nor necessarily wrong at all. It’s obvious that cultural transmission plays a big role here, and I post a link to a recent Science paper on that issue quite often:

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/316/5827/996

    Still, it seems increasingly apparent that like alcoholism or schizophrenia, there may be a predisposition towards certain behavioral modes that can be heritable. Predispositions are just that, though, and are often malleable and entirely dependent on local environmental influences for their expression.

  • #406 Kseniya
    April 30, 2008

    Those are interesting hypotheticals, Tom, but none of them equate to “doing nothing” (though the first example comes pretty close).

    1. Yes
    2. No
    3. No
    4. No

  • #407 Tom Marking
    April 30, 2008

    “1) Yes, 2) No, 3) No”

    Heck, lucky we have you to decide these issues for us. What do we need a court system for? You already have all the answers. While you’re at it, please tell us the correct sentence for the parents in this case. They should get the death penalty administered via fishhooks, right?

  • #408 Kseniya
    April 30, 2008

    Tom: No, of course not. I was being colorful.

    You pose questions, and are offended when people answer? Interesting. You’re free to consider my answers and accept or reject them according to your own judgement. You’re invited to keep your strawmen to yourself, though, ‘kay?

  • #409 Tom Marking
    April 30, 2008

    “1. Yes
    2. No
    3. No
    4. No

    What the heck? There were only 3 hypotheticals. What is that 4th answer? Also, the lengthy explanations for your opinions on these questions is greatly appreciated.

  • #410 Tom Marking
    April 30, 2008

    “You’re invited to keep your strawmen to yourself, though, ‘kay?”

    You haven’t answered the question about what the appropriate sentence for the parents is. C’mon, you answered the hypotheticals in about five seconds. What’s your answer on the sentence? Or don’t you know?

  • #411 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    @#401 Tom Marking —

    1.) Instead of doing nothing the parents attempted homeopathic treatment involving herbal supplements that had been recommended to them by a homeopath. Are they still responsible for the death?

    Yes, because the government organization in charge of researching and determining what treatments are medically supported and what are not — the FDA — has never shown that homeopathy is medically valid. All homeopathic medicines you buy will tell you this. I think there may even be a law that practitioners of homeopathic medicine have to explain this, though I could be wrong.

    2.) There are two doctors, a pediatrician and a specialist in some disease. The parents chose to take their daughter to the pediatrician who did not diagnose their child’s symptoms correctly and gave her the wrong medicine. If they had taken their child to the specialist he would have correctly diagnosed her. Are the parents responsible for her death? They chose which doctor to take her to.

    No. They still tried to seek medical intervention for the child’s medical problem. Hopefully they will learn from this experience, though, and it may help them choose more suitable doctors for any future diseases their other children get (unlike the Neumanns, who have said they will stick by their faith in prayer).

    3.) Let’s say that the girl had the flu instead of diabetes. The parents chose to take her to the ER. While waiting to be admitted in the lobby their daughter came into contact with an even sicker child, say suffering from dengue fever or something like that. Their daughter picked up dengue fever from the other child and died the next day. If she had remained at home she would most likely have recovered from the flu in a few days. Are the parents responsible for her death by taking her to the hospital?

    No. This kind of unforseeable circumstance — getting a flu from another child who happens to come into the ER — is what’s commonly referred to in law as an “act of God” (an expression that I’ve always found a bit amusing). The implication being that no individual person can be held responsible for it.

    So yes, the issue actually is fairly clear cut.

  • #412 Ichthyic
    April 30, 2008

    What the heck? There were only 3 hypotheticals.

    no, I’d say there were 4:

    So it’s not so clear anymore with these other hypotheticals, now is it?

    which could be interpreted as yet another hypothetical.

    now rethink your response to Kseniya given that as potentially the last hypothetical, and what her answer was to it.

  • #413 Nick Gotts
    April 30, 2008

    Tom Marking, Kseniya’s silly comment about fish-hooks is wholly irrelevant to your hypotheticals, which completely fail to establish any sort of gradation of cases: as both frog and Kseniya say, the answers are clearly Yes, No, No.

    Even if you were able to come up with a reasonable graded series of cases, it would have no bearing on the current case, which is absolutely clear. As Edmund Burke said:
    “While no man may draw a stroke between the confines of day and night, yet light and darkness are on the whole tolerably distinguishable.”

    Furthermore, of course the parents should not and will not be convicted and punished without a trial at which any relevant evidence we do not currently have, and any mitigating circumstances, should be brought out. To pretend that this means we cannot reasonably express our condemnation of their conduct is contemptible sophistry.

  • #414 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    Also, Tom Marking, I don’t know if this is what you’re doing, but I want to bring something up that I’ve noticed myself do occasionally (though I try my best to avoid it ) —

    In trying to be rational, independent thinkers, we must consider all sides of an issue. This is a good thing. However, in doing so, we will see that some sides are more appealing (on a moral or personal level) to us than others.

    The general tendency when this happens is to automatically want to accept the more appealing option. However, for some people — generally people who place a very high value on impartiality — there is sometimes a tendency to actually go with the option that is *less* appealing. Why would a person do something? Because it gives him the illusion of impartiality. It lets him say, “Look, by acknowledging this fact that is unappealing to me, I am going against my personal inclinations and recognizing the objective, rational truth of the matter.”

    Of course, sometimes this is true. There are some truths about the world that are unappealing, but that we nevertheless must accept if we are to be honest with ourselves. However, sometimes, the more appealing side of the issue — like the side that allows us to say “healing by prayer alone is WRONG” — is also the correct side of the issue. And it’s important not to ignore that possibility in our attempt to be impartial.

    Again, I am not attempting to speak for your thought process. You may or may not be speaking out of this internal motivation, and I wouldn’t presume to tell you one way or another. Nevertheless, I think it’s an important point to make, if not for you, for other people who may let this fallacy creep into their thought processes.

  • #415 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    Gah…in looking back over my comment #412, I noticed a rather large typo: in the middle of the 3rd paragraph, when I wrote “Why would people do something?” I actually meant “Why would people do something like this?” The first question, as I originally phrased it, obviously has a multitude of possible answers….

  • #416 Tom Marking
    April 30, 2008

    O.K. So now the real reasons come out to play.

    1.) “Yes, because the government organization in charge of researching and determining what treatments are medically supported and what are not — the FDA — has never shown that homeopathy is medically valid.”

    So it’s a bureacratic answer. Whatever the FDA approves is O.K. and whatever the FDA hasn’t approved is not. Of course, this will be the prosecutorial position too but it’s no coincidence that the prosecutors are also members of the government. Notice how they scratch each other’s back from time to time.

    2.) “No. They still tried to seek medical intervention for the child’s medical problem.”

    Medical intervention being defined as whatever some clown with the letters M.D. after his name decides to do. If he makes a mistake, well, that’s what malpractice insurance is for, now isn’t it?

    3.) “No. This kind of unforseeable circumstance”

    Absolutely not. You’ve obviously never taken a small child to the E.R. before. The first thing they tell you while you’re waiting is to get as far away from other people as possible. Go hide in a corner until your name is called. It’s completely forseeable. If it wasn’t they wouldn’t warn you about it.

    So, as I suspected (that’s why I asked the questions to begin with) it all boils down to a government stamp of approval (which apparently most folks on this board are quite happy with). If you follow a set of actions that has the government stamp of approval then you will be fine, no one will prosecute you even if your child dies. If you do not then you are up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

  • #417 Kseniya
    April 30, 2008

    Tom:

    My oh my. I’m almost getting the feeling that you believe I owe you a response to your every query. Tsk.

    In the interest of meeting you halfway – even though you’ve already forced an answer on me, in reckless disregard of comment #398 (in which I withdrew the fishhook punishment, which was rhetorical anyway) – I will answer:

    I don’t know.

    For what it’s worth, my inclination in this case is to go with the law of natural consequences.

    The fourth answer was to the fourth question.

    However, it can also serve as my answer to a fourth, unstated, fourth hypothetical:

    4. A family is vacationing at the seaside. One evening down at the beach at twilight, their son’s leg is severed at the knee by a shark. The parents apply a makeshift tourniquet and jump in the car, but in their mad dash through the fading light to the nearest hospital, they fail to obey every traffic signal – and at a crossing, their car is broadsided by a train, and the boy is killed in the crash. If they’d stayed by seaside and let the tourniquet do its work, he’d still be alive. Are they responsible for his death by attempting to take him to the hospital?

  • #418 brokenSoldier
    April 30, 2008

    Posted by: Tom Marking | April 30, 2008 7:02 PM

    1.) Instead of doing nothing the parents attempted homeopathic treatment involving herbal supplements that had been recommended to them by a homeopath. Are they still responsible for the death?

    Yes. Instead of taking their child to health care practitioners that specify in diagnosing and treating children, consulting homeopathic practitioners’ for advice is extremely questionable considering that the majority of treatments offered by homeopathic doctors
    are generalized treatments that pplace immediate medical care lower on the priority scale when it should vice versa. Homeopaths – by definition – actively ignore proven, safe, and efficient medications for conditions easily treated based on a personal belief that their type of treatment makes such medicines unnecessary. Same situation – individual knew the child needed medical attention, and thought that their ‘system’ (homeopathy or religion) was superior to medical science. Making the consented choice to keep her from receiving such care is a textbook example of criminal negligence.

    2.) There are two doctors, a pediatrician and a specialist in some disease. The parents chose to take their daughter to the pediatrician who did not diagnose their child’s symptoms correctly and gave her the wrong medicine. If they had taken their child to the specialist he would have correctly diagnosed her. Are the parents responsible for her death? They chose which doctor to take her to.

    If the doctor’s actions that resulted in the child’s death were mistakes on his part, then the doctor is responsible. If the parents took the child to a doctor such as this, the responsibility for the out come still lies solely with the doctor. One of the parent’s obligations to their children is to ensure they remain as healthy as possible. By taking her to the doctor, they would have fulfilled their responsibilities. After that ppoint, they have to trust the doctor’s training and experience. (Should that fail him and it harms a patient, he should be investigated and tried for his malfeasance.)

    3.) Let’s say that the girl had the flu instead of diabetes. The parents chose to take her to the ER. While waiting to be admitted in the lobby their daughter came into contact with an even sicker child, say suffering from dengue fever or something like that. Their daughter picked up dengue fever from the other child and died the next day. If she had remained at home she would most likely have recovered from the flu in a few days. Are the parents responsible for her death by taking her to the hospital?

    This silly situation invokes the spirit of Chaos theory, and then erroneously applies it to the concept of legal responsibility. The parents could have taken the child to a doctor at the time symptoms of a sickness presented. If they had done that, the kid would probably be a lot better off than she turned out. This argument is a non-sequitur. If she runs across someone who has the bubonic plague, malaria, scarlet fever, or any other illness while in a hospital, depending on situation, the only party that could be responsible is either the hospital or one of its employees.

    So it’s not so clear anymore with these other hypotheticals, now is it?

    The original issue is perfectly clear. Your hypotheticals are simply that – alternative situations that have no relation to the situation that actually took place, and therefore do nothing to support your arguments. The only think that is left unclear are your intentions behind trying to argue against the fact that parents should seek treatment for illnesses of their children that they don’t understand. No person should ever knowingly withhold medical attention from anyone, especially sick children. And if they were so concerned about their child, why was she laying on the couch eating fast food? I know this was pointed out by Kseniya and a couple of other posters, but their choice of food for their daughter seems to betray the almost nonexistent

  • #419 kmarissa
    April 30, 2008

    I’m confused… is the presumable point of these hypotheticals that, because the law involves making brightline divisions between shades of grey, therefore criminal law in its entirety is valueless?

  • #420 Kseniya
    April 30, 2008

    So it’s a bureacratic answer.

    Wrong. It’s a scientific answer. You’re confusing the stamp with the approval.

    By the way, the fifth hypothetical involves a comet. Don’t make me go there.

  • #421 frog
    April 30, 2008

    Tom: ‘”Yes, because the government organization in charge of researching and determining what treatments are medically supported and what are not — the FDA — has never shown that homeopathy is medically valid.”
    So it’s a bureacratic answer. Whatever the FDA approves is O.K. and whatever the FDA hasn’t approved is not. Of course, this will be the prosecutorial position too but it’s no coincidence that the prosecutors are also members of the government. Notice how they scratch each other’s back from time to time.’

    Ah, so we have a clear wingnut at hand, where everything is a conspiracy. How, oh dear Tom, do you suggest that we compose a system of justice except through consensus and bureaucracy? Have a prophet deliver us? Refuse to have any kind of justice whatsoever?

    “See judge, when I cracked Bob’s head open, I believed that angels would rush in and turn him into a super-cyborg. I don’t believe in your bureaucratic nonsense about death and blood.” Really, this descends to the level solipsism.

    I guess no one can tell you’re a dog on the intertubes, ‘cept when you start to bark.

  • #422 Ichthyic
    April 30, 2008

    By the way, the fifth hypothetical involves a comet. Don’t make me go there.

    LOL

  • #423 Nick Gotts
    April 30, 2008

    BrokenSoldier,
    I think Tom Marking has actually made his motivations fairly clear in #414: he thinks governments can do no right, and parents own their children. No-one without some such reason-proof ideology could possibly have come up with such weak arguments and thought they amounted to anything.

  • #424 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    @#414 Tom —

    You do realize that you’re being utterly self-contradictory, right? In comment #405, you wrote

    Heck, lucky we have you to decide these issues for us. What do we need a court system for? You already have all the answers.

    This seems to imply that you have some respect for our system of government and for judicial rulings. But then in your reply to me, you write:

    So, as I suspected (that’s why I asked the questions to begin with) it all boils down to a government stamp of approval (which apparently most folks on this board are quite happy with). If you follow a set of actions that has the government stamp of approval then you will be fine, no one will prosecute you even if your child dies.

    Um…yeah…the court system rules based on the government “stamp of approval” (otherwise known as “laws”).

    Along these lines, you also wrote:

    So it’s a bureacratic answer. Whatever the FDA approves is O.K. and whatever the FDA hasn’t approved is not. Of course, this will be the prosecutorial position too but it’s no coincidence that the prosecutors are also members of the government. Notice how they scratch each other’s back from time to time.

    The FDA isn’t perfect. Not at all. But as an institution that does real medical research and generally tries to determine what is medically sound and what isn’t (and yes, it makes mistakes sometimes, and that is tragic), we are better off with it than without it.

    Medical intervention being defined as whatever some clown with the letters M.D. after his name decides to do. If he makes a mistake, well, that’s what malpractice insurance is for, now isn’t it?

    That “clown” went to many years of medical school, and then spent more in residency, to earn those two letters. The letters themselves may seem insignificant, but the training they indicate isn’t.

    On malpractice insurance — it’s a complicated problem, and there are definitely issues with the way it’s implimented, but without it people would probably not perform many of the risky but life-saving procedures they do. And yeah, doctors make mistakes from time to time — but their overall success rate (percentage, not absolute numbers) is far, far better than faith healers or homeopaths.

    Absolutely not. You’ve obviously never taken a small child to the E.R. before. The first thing they tell you while you’re waiting is to get as far away from other people as possible. Go hide in a corner until your name is called. It’s completely forseeable. If it wasn’t they wouldn’t warn you about it.

    You obviously haven’t been in the same ERs I have. They’re very crowded, and “get as far away as possible” there would mean maybe a meter rather than 10 centimeters. However, if you *have* been told this, and you refuse or ignore it for some odd reason (I really can’t fathom *why*) there probably are grounds for charges of negligence — since you willfully disobeyed a professional’s medical orders.

  • #425 brokenSoldier
    April 30, 2008

    Furthermore, of course the parents should not and will not be convicted and punished without a trial at which any relevant evidence we do not currently have, and any mitigating circumstances, should be brought out. To pretend that this means we cannot reasonably express our condemnation of their conduct is contemptible sophistry.

    Posted by: Nick Gotts | April 30, 2008 7:35 PM

    Well said, sir. “Innocent until proven guilty” certainly does not mean that we lose our rights to express opinion, whether founded or unfounded, and personally contemplate the situation. The fact that the parents have not been tried and convicted certainly does not mean that we don’t have our rights to expression and speech concerning the situation.

  • #426 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    @#421 Nick Gotts —

    I think Tom Marking has actually made his motivations fairly clear in #414: he thinks governments can do no right, and parents own their children.

    I’d have to disagree on the “fairly clear” part, given that in #405 in response to Kseniya’s answers, he writes:

    Heck, lucky we have you to decide these issues for us. What do we need a court system for?

    This rhetorical question would seem to imply that we do have a governmental court system for a reason. Either he constructs his beliefs by convenience, or he holds internally inconsistent beliefs and is unaware of it.

    I’d actually say he makes at least some of his motivations pretty clear in this part of his #414 though:

    Medical intervention being defined as whatever some clown with the letters M.D. after his name decides to do.

    IOW, a medical degree — and by extension the science of modern medicine, which is rigorously taught to anyone getting an MD — is fairly meaningless to him, at least while making this argument. (Also evidenced in his total disregard for the FDA, a flawed but nevertheless scientifically-based organization…)

  • #427 Tom Marking
    April 30, 2008

    I’m not sure if the answers are legal answers or moral answers. But if we rephrase it to did the parental actions cause the death of the child?, then clearly the answers are:

    1.) Yes (failure to act)
    2.) Yes (positive action)
    3.) Yes (positive action)
    4.) Yes (positive action)

    Moving to the moral guilt phase I see people want to reverse 2-4 based on the following:

    2.) No (respect for the title M.D. and for “medicine”)
    3.) No (unforeseen results)
    4.) No (unforeseen results)

    Of course, you can use that argument to reverse 1 also on grounds of unforeseen results (i.e., the parents were given medicine by someone they respected who told them it would be effective but it turned out to be worthless). If anything #1 should be more reversible based on the fact that it was a failure to act, not a positive action that led to the result.

  • #428 Ichthyic
    April 30, 2008

    he thinks governments can do no right

    ten bucks says we find out he claims himself a “libertarian”.

  • #429 negentropyeater
    April 30, 2008

    ohoh we have a live one.

  • #430 brokenSoldier
    April 30, 2008

    If you follow a set of actions that has the government stamp of approval then you will be fine, no one will prosecute you even if your child dies. If you do not then you are up the proverbial creek without a paddle.
    Posted by: Tom Marking | April 30, 2008 7:52 PM

    You’re showing your lunacy here, Tom. The government “stamp of approval” you mentioned is not an arbitrary stamp created by greedy politics and collusion. While those things exist, it does not change the fact that the governmental actions required by citizens to follow in cases like these are in no way arbitrary. They have been voted into law by those we have chosen for office. The parents’ crime is in the fact that they possessed knowledge they knew could help their daughter, but for religious reasons believed such treatment was unneeded. When their daughter’s death proved them tragically wrong, her death became the result of their negligence.

    As such, they should go to jail. Whether or not their the family’s religion was the determining influence in their failure to seek medical care becomes ultimately irrelevant. This protection is only offered is the exact practice you are charged with – i.e., animal sacrifice for Santeria practitioners being exempt from some animal cruelty legislation – is an established religious practice. Failure to use contemporary medical knowledge is not an example of a protected practice. These parents should be used as a cautionary tale to show exactly what happens when you distrust your fellow man enough to fall back on the superior ‘divine’ knowledge in matters of health, especially when such matters are life-and-death important.

    The insinuation that non-prosecution of cases involving no malpractice (i.e., cases where the doctor’s actions are free from negligence) is some sport of underlying, government-wide conspiracy is deluded and utterly false implication to convey.

  • #431 brokenSoldier
    April 30, 2008

    Tom @ #145:

    Morally – The parents didn’t do everything possible to ensure their child got better and survived, thus they are morally responsible for their child’s death.

    Legally – The actively refused care for their daughter, instead preferring to trust in a supernatural process (prayer) to heal her. This is in no way protected by the Constitution or the laws of our nation as a reason to not seek medical attention in life-and-death medical cases. This makes them criminally negligent in the death of their daughter.

    You can try to use any framing of this argument you wish in order to try and downplay the parents’ guilt in the death of their own child, but it doesn’t change a thing – if those parents had fulfilled their familial responsibilities to their own daughter and sought professional care, she would more than likely still be alive today. Spin that any way you want, but it won’t diminish the parents’ responsibility in her death.

  • #432 Tom Marking
    April 30, 2008

    “You do realize that you’re being utterly self-contradictory, right? In comment #405…”

    Exactly how is it contradictory? In the first excerpt I’m recognizing the legal system as the entity that must answer these questions. In the second excerpt I’m saying that if you follow the law you won’t be prosecuted. Well, duh. How is that a contradiction?

    “I think Tom Marking has actually made his motivations fairly clear in #414: he thinks governments can do no right, and parents own their children.”

    Now, you’re putting words in my mouth. I could say that your position is that governments should own all the children from birth and that way none of these events could happen. Of course, that would be putting words in your mouth which I would never do deliberately but I might do it accidentally. :)

    BTW, the answer to the question about sentencing is this:
    10 years each (out on parole in 5)

  • #433 Epikt
    April 30, 2008

    Tom Marking

    So it’s a bureacratic answer. Whatever the FDA approves is O.K. and whatever the FDA hasn’t approved is not.
    Medical intervention being defined as whatever some clown with the letters M.D. after his name decides to do. If he makes a mistake, well, that’s what malpractice insurance is for, now isn’t it?

    Sounds like you really don’t believe in medical science at all. You obviously have a better alternative in mind, though I confess I’m not willing to wade through your previous posts to see what, if anything, you propose. Yet a couple paragraphs down, you say:

    You’ve obviously never taken a small child to the E.R. before.

    …implying that you have. So you do take advantage of available med tech after all. In other words, you trust those “clowns with the letters M.D.” with your child’s well-being. Why are you doing that? Shouldn’t you be going to a homeopath instead? Or perhaps praying?

    So, as I suspected (that’s why I asked the questions to begin with) it all boils down to a government stamp of approval (which apparently most folks on this board are quite happy with). If you follow a set of actions that has the government stamp of approval then you will be fine, no one will prosecute you even if your child dies. If you do not then you are up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

    Tom, nobody here is contesting your right to be a rock-ribbed individualist, to get your medical attention from whomever you think is ideologically or theologically pure enough, and die as a result. Just don’t abuse your children that way.

  • #434 Etha Williams
    April 30, 2008

    @# Tom —

    Exactly how is it contradictory? In the first excerpt I’m recognizing the legal system as the entity that must answer these questions. In the second excerpt I’m saying that if you follow the law you won’t be prosecuted. Well, duh. How is that a contradiction?

    Because the part that you’ve conveniently left out here is that in the second excerpt you’re implying that the law doesn’t deserve respect:

    Of course, this will be the prosecutorial position too but it’s no coincidence that the prosecutors are also members of the government. Notice how they scratch each other’s back from time to time.

    If you really believe this, you shouldn’t want courts to decide these things. Actually, you should be more happy with individuals (such as Kseniya) making the decisions, since at least they’re not corrupt gov officials….

  • #435 Tom Marking
    April 30, 2008

    “The government “stamp of approval” you mentioned is not an arbitrary stamp created by greedy politics and collusion.”

    Yes, yes, “stamp of approval” was a rhetorical flourish. It means law.

    “The parents’ crime is in the fact that they possessed knowledge they knew could help their daughter, but for religious reasons believed such treatment was unneeded. When their daughter’s death proved them tragically wrong, her death became the result of their negligence. As such, they should go to jail. Whether or not their the family’s religion was the determining influence in their failure to seek medical care becomes ultimately irrelevant.”

    I think you should educate yourself on what the law says before spouting off about it. In many states what the parents did isn’t even a crime. Here is a good web site for you to peruse:

    http://www.childrenshealthcare.org/legal.htm

    Some wonderful nuggets in here are:

    “48 states have religious exemptions from immunizations. Mississippi and West Virginia are the only states that require all children to be immunized without exception for religious belief.”

    “Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia have religious exemptions in their civil codes on child abuse or neglect”

    “Eighteen states have religious defenses to felony crimes against children: Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin”

    Minnesota? Isn’t that P.Z.’s home state? Surely such a progressively social state as Minnesota wouldn’t have such a law on the books. Tell me it ain’t so! And not one peep from Mr. Meyers concerning this law, I might add.

    “Florida has a religious exemption only in the civil code, but the Florida Supreme Court nevertheless held that it caused confusion about criminal liability and required overturning a felony conviction of Christian Scientists for letting their daughter die of untreated diabetes. Hermanson v. State, 604 So.2d 775 (Fla. 1992)”

    If this case had happened in Florida the parents would have gotten off scot free.

    “States with a religious defense to the most serious crimes against children include:
    Iowa and Ohio with religious defenses to manslaughter
    West Virginia with religious defenses to murder of a child and child neglect resulting in death
    Arkansas with a religious defense to capital murder
    Oregon with a religious defense to homicide by abuse”

    “In 1996, however, Congress enacted a law stating that the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) did not include “a Federal requirement that a parent or guardian provide a child any medical service or treatment against the religious beliefs of the parent or guardian.” 42 USC 5106i Furthermore, Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana, and Congressman Bill Goodling, R-Pennsylvania, claimed during floor discussion that parents have a First Amendment right to withhold medical care from children.”

    “In 1998, Washington enacted the following defense to criminal mistreatment: “It is the intent of the legislature that a person who, in good faith, is furnished Christian Science treatment by a duly accredited Christian Science practitioner in lieu of medical care is not considered deprived of medically necessary health care or abandoned.” RCW 9A.42.005. Washington has made prayer “medically necessary health care” for all diseases of helpless children.”

    The parents may have been foolish to trust in God to save their child. But those who put their trust in the law to protect children are just as foolish.

  • #436 Tom Marking
    April 30, 2008

    “Because the part that you’ve conveniently left out here is that in the second excerpt you’re implying that the law doesn’t deserve respect”

    Boy, you stepped in it this time, now didn’t you. Please tell us which laws contained in post 433 you respect? And could you please rate all of them on a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest level of respect and 1 being the lowest level of respect.

  • #437 Tom Marking
    April 30, 2008

    Scratch “contained in post 433″ and replace it with “contained in post 435″.

  • #438 Kseniya
    April 30, 2008

    Interesting stuff, Tom, but I’d be curious to learn which of those laws are still relevant. I wonder if any are archaic.

    If this case had happened in Florida the parents would have gotten off scot free.

    Not necessarily. The defendants in that one case, heard sixteen years ago, got off scot-free.

    That doesn’t undermine your larger point, though. Loopholes certainly exist – some quite large, apparently.

    While we’re on the subject, I think it’s worth of note that childrenshealthcare.org legal page also contains a section on “CHILD’s Public Policy Achievements.”

    Since 1990, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, and South Dakota have repealed some religious exemptions from a duty to provide medical care for a sick child. CHILD gave extensive support to repeal bills in most of those states and has blocked the Christian Science church from getting more religious exemptions enacted in some states.

    This, also, makes for an interesting addendum:

    “Most states that do have a religious exemption, however, also vest power in the court or the state to order medical treatment for a child if needed.” (link)

    From the same piece:

  • When [Oregon state rep Bruce] Starr introduced his bill, it originally allowed a murder prosecution against any parent who withheld medical care from a child who consequently died due to lack of that care.
  • “That generated quite a bit of controversy,” Starr says. A major obstacle was the state’s mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison for a murder conviction. “A lot of my conservative friends supported the bill, but they didn’t want to be responsible for putting loving, caring parents away for 25 years on a murder conviction.”
  • A compromise was approved by a large majority in the House and in the Senate. Religious exemptions to second-degree manslaughter, criminal nonsupport, criminal mistreatment and neglect were repealed. The law also gave judges the right to disregard the mandatory minimum sentence of 75 to 300 months in jail and allowed them to impose a lesser amount of jail time in those cases where parents had genuinely believed that faith healing would save their child.
  • [ I confess that I find the juxtaposition of “loving, caring” with “murder” rather… dissonant. Doesn’t the mere suggestion of culpability or complicity in the death of one’s child trump the apparent illusion of “loving, caring”? ]

    So, there appears to be a trend – a slow one, perhaps – in the right direction. I define “right” as being that which the all-knowing Me would support. ;-)

  • #439 kmarissa
    April 30, 2008

    Tom, serious question: do you believe that parents should have any legal responsibility for taking care of their children? If so, what responsibility should they have?

  • #440 Ichthyic
    April 30, 2008

    am i wrong, or does #435 essentially boil down to another argumentum ad populum?

    In many states what the parents did isn’t even a crime.

    sure sounds like it.

    what about the pentecostal snake handlers, tommy boy?

  • #441 raven
    April 30, 2008

    Tom Marking the Dumb Cultist:

    BTW, people die in ER’s everyday and no one goes to prison.

    Sure some people go to ERs and die. Despite the best medical care in the world. Surprise, docs can’t bring back the dead or near dead.

    A huge number of people go to the ERs and don’t die. Many of those would have died without medical care. Would you rather see people praying around a head on car crash with blood everywhere or would you rather see an ambulance show up?

    The number of ER patients alive rather than dead because of modern medicine is anyone’s guess, probably 10 to 100 times as many as say, the 1800’s.

    And sure, rarely docs screw up. They can and frequently do lose their license. As long as humans do something, it isn’t going to be perfect. In the last century, due to modern medicine, the USA life span has gone from 47 to 78. Would you rather avoid medicine and die at 47 or live another 30 years? Few people have a hard time with that arithmetic.

  • #442 EntoAggie
    April 30, 2008

    Tom Marking, if you’re going to throw around strange hypotheticals, at least get your facts straight first. This:

    “While waiting to be admitted in the lobby their daughter came into contact with an even sicker child, say suffering from dengue fever or something like that. Their daughter picked up dengue fever from the other child and died the next day….”

    assumes that the hospital hosts an infestation of either Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus,, the mosquitoes which transmit this disease. In which case, I think the hospital would have some ‘splainin to do. ;) But, regardless, you don’t come down with dengue by just “coming in contact” with an infected person.

    Okay, geeky entomologist goes off…now.

    Tom, I am not trying to be a smart ass when I ask if you’ve had some personal trauma at the hands of doctors or government. You really seem to be taking this very personally.

  • #443 Tom Marking
    April 30, 2008

    “Tom Marking the Dumb Cultist”

    That’s funny. I suggest you go to:

    http://irrationalatheist.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=2&sid=524808ed3007c5bbc3e5f5084e0757e0

    if you want to find out who I am. I’m one of the few atheists who is willing to take Vox Day on in his home turf. Most of you are too frightened cowering under the protection of Mr. Meyers.

    “The number of ER patients alive rather than dead because of modern medicine is anyone’s guess, probably 10 to 100 times as many as say, the 1800’s.”

    Great pro-science comment there, Raven. It’s anyone’s guess and so you pull out a number range straight out of your arse. Can you please give a URL for that value. Perhaps http://www.myarse.com?

  • #444 Tom Marking
    May 1, 2008

    “Tom, serious question: do you believe that parents should have any legal responsibility for taking care of their children? If so, what responsibility should they have?”

    Yes. It varies from state to state. In 48 states it does not involve mandatory immunizations. I suggest you consult the laws in your particular state for more details.

  • #445 Tom Marking
    May 1, 2008

    “say suffering from dengue fever or something like that. Their daughter picked up dengue fever from the other child and died the next day….”

    Scratch “dengue fever”, replace with “any serious communicable disease of your choosing”. It doesn’t impact the hypothetical at all.

    “I ask if you’ve had some personal trauma at the hands of doctors or government.”

    The answer is yes. When my child was one month old I was told that he had CAH (Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia) and would have to take steroids to survive for the rest of his life. This was done before performing the definitive test for CAH. Two weeks later I was told that it was all a mistake, that he doesn’t have CAH. And this happened at the premier children’s hospital in my state. The best doctors in the field of endocrinology were telling me this nonsense. A few years later something even worse happened but I won’t get into it.

  • #446 reuben
    May 1, 2008

    Tom:

    The parents may have been foolish to trust in God to save their child. But those who put their trust in the law to protect children are just as foolish.

    The answer is yes. When my child was one month old I was told that he had CAH (Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia) and would have to take steroids to survive for the rest of his life.

    At least now we have some understanding of the basis for your anger at the medical/legal establishment. Thank you for that.

    Yes, people make mistakes. I think PZ’s point with this post though, is that it is *always* a mistake to rely on prayer to solve medical problems.

  • #447 Hematite
    May 1, 2008

    Tom, going back to your original post (sorry I’m late).

    Blame accrues where a party has not made a good faith effort. Praying or homeopathy are generally not considered good faith efforts to cure illness because there is no evidence that they work. When a doctor deliberately or through negligence does not make a good faith effort to cure illness it is malpractice. Laws try to codify the notion of good faith, with varying results. Judges and juries rule and assign punishment based on their perception of good faith.

    Sometimes even if everybody acts in good faith it isn’t enough. Sometimes the action which is most likely to cause a good outcome will cause a bad one; but that doesn’t mean it was the wrong action to choose. All any of us can do is play the odds to our best advantage and hope.

  • #448 Hematite
    May 1, 2008

    I just want to drop in a nod to EntoAggie, who I scandalously forgot to credit for an excellent comment that wasn’t about memes. I’m enjoying the rest of your comments immensely too.

    I’m sad about the lack of a more high-tech user account system here, as I have no way to record my fanboydom for the various commenters I admire.

  • #449 Hemateite
    May 1, 2008

    Etha Williams (#371):

    the early 14th century Rabbi Yosef Ibn Caspi wrote, “How could God command such a revolting thing?” Unfortunately, like most religious scholars, he feels compelled to “answer” this question (read: rationalize)

    Poor guy. Common story. He knows that the God he believes in is good and kind shouldn’t act the way the bible says. He’s a smart man stuck with the false premise that the bible is an accurate account of God’s actions. I bet he wasn’t happy with his answer either, but what are you going to do?

    Points for further discussion:

    • Interpreting the bible literally is a painful exercise in rationalisation
    • Generally speaking, religious people believe their God is good and kind, despite evidence to the contrary in their own scripture
  • #450 Hematite
    May 1, 2008

    Etha Williams (#373):

    Though honestly, someone taking the Babel story figuratively kind of depresses me too, since they’d probably still get the same moral out of it :\

    Not at all! Turn that… umm… unimpressed face… upside down! It might go like this:

    In the city on the plains of Shinar, men poured their effort and craft into the construction of a great tower; great enough to reach to heaven and learn it secrets. They were blinded by this goal which the believed would bring them great power and renown. They did not consider the consequences of their work or the duty they had to use the knowledge they sought responsibly, so obsessed were they. God cast down their tower and scattered the people across the world because they were unworthy of what they sought so greedily.

    The story of the Tower of Babel warns us against the hubris of seizing knowledge for its own sake, without considering our obligation or capacity to use knowledge responsibly. In our modern world this warns us against the destructive power of atom bombs, the threat of germ warfare and the accidental terraforming caused by atmospheric pollution. The products of knowledge are great but can be dangerous if used unwisely. We must always strive to understand and guard against these dangers. The knowledge to master God’s creation is something we must be worthy of or risk our destruction as the Tower of Babel was destroyed.

    Tada! I don’t think I butchered the story too badly, but now it’s about not rushing into scientific projects without due diligence. Also, God was a great guy who was just saving us from ourselves. Maybe once we get rid of all the fundies who would recklessly throw atom bombs around, God will see we are suitably cautious and mature, and grant us the knowlege of heaven!

    Ok, so all I showed is that if you’re not dead set on literalism you can make the bible say whatever you want. Sure beats the alternative.

  • #451 Hematite
    May 1, 2008

    Re: problems commenting on Etha’s blog
    cicely (#374) and Etha (#379)

    I had some troubles too, but I worked around them. Those four years at university sure paid off!

    If you write a comment and select to post it with the name/URL option, enter a name but no URL, diligently preview your comment and THEN click on the “post this comment” link at the bottom of the preview box… it complains about a bad URL. Instead of clicking on the “post this” link in the preview box, click on the one back up at the top of the page, where you typed the comment in. That link seems work slightly differently, and doesn’t complain about the URL.

  • #452 Etha Williams
    May 1, 2008

    @#450 Hematite —

    Ok, so all I showed is that if you’re not dead set on literalism you can make the bible say whatever you want. Sure beats the alternative.

    You did a nice job of it, too. ‘Course, the alternative alternative — not believing a word it says — is even better.

    Also, one runs into even bigger problems with the story of Abraham and Isaac. Rabi Ibn Caspi’s interpretation (involving Abraham’s overactive imagination) just doesn’t really cut it for me….

  • #453 kmarissa
    May 1, 2008

    Yes. It varies from state to state. In 48 states it does not involve mandatory immunizations. I suggest you consult the laws in your particular state for more details.

    That’s an interesting answer, because you reply that parents should have whatever duty of care a state assigns them. So, in this case, you would reply that the parents should have taken her to the hospital if they are found guilty of manslaughter?

    It’s a big of a backwards way of answering the question from what I’m used to (articulating what duty a person should have based on what duty he or she does have).

    In this case, there is good reason to suggest that any statutory protection does not extend to the protection against charges of manslaughter. I suppose we will see as the case progresses.

  • #454 kmarissa
    May 1, 2008

    Incidentally, I find your citation of immunization statutes a bit beside the point. If a law gives protection to a parent that decides not to immunize, this doesn’t mean that if the child contracts the illness in question, the parent gets to just sit by and watch the child die. I would be very interested in any caselaw that remotely suggests this to be the case.

    A statutory exemption from immunization is, in my view, a mistaken attempt to balance personal belief with duty of care. However, surely you can see how deciding to increase your child’s risk of contracting certain diseases in the future is miles away from the case at hand. You appear to be putting in the same category parents who place their children on diets of questionable health benefit with parents who deliberately withhold all food until a child starves to death; we may disagree on the wisdom of laws regarding the former, but this doesn’t prevent us from forming opinions about the latter, nor does it make the latter any less reprehensible.

  • #455 Tom Marking
    May 1, 2008

    “At least now we have some understanding of the basis for your anger at the medical/legal establishment.”

    If you think it is a personal argument then you are wrong. Check out this web site:

    http://www.wnho.net/deathbymedicine.htm

    “A definitive review and close reading of medical peer-review journals, and government health statistics shows that American medicine frequently causes more harm than good. The number of people having in-hospital, adverse drug reactions (ADR) to prescribed medicine is 2.2 million.1 Dr. Richard Besser, of the CDC, in 1995, said the number of unnecessary antibiotics prescribed annually for viral infections was 20 million. Dr. Besser, in 2003, now refers to tens of millions of unnecessary antibiotics. The number of unnecessary medical and surgical procedures performed annually is 7.5 million. The number of people exposed to unnecessary hospitalization annually is 8.9 million. The total number of iatrogenic deaths shown in the following table is 783,936. It is evident that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the United States.

    Condition Deaths Cost
    Hospital ADR 106,000 $12 billion
    Medical error 98,000 $2 billion
    Bedsores 115,000 $55 billion
    Infection 88,000 $5 billion
    Malnutrition 108,800 –
    Outpatient ADR 199,000 $77 billion
    Unnecessary Procedures 37,136 $122 billion
    Surgery-Related 32,000 $9 billion
    TOTAL 783,936 $282 billion

    Simply entering a hospital could result in the following:

    In 16.4 million people, 2.1% chance of a serious adverse drug reaction (186,000)

    In 16.4 million people, 5-6% chance of acquiring a nosocomial infection (489,500)

    In 16.4 million people, 4-36% chance of having an iatrogenic injury in hospital (medical error and adverse drug reactions) (1.78 million)

    In 16.4 million people, 17% chance of a procedure error (1.3 million)”

  • #456 Tom Marking
    May 1, 2008

    “That’s an interesting answer, because you reply that parents should have whatever duty of care a state assigns them.”

    The original question was badly phrased:

    “do you believe that parents should have any legal responsibility for taking care of their children?”

    It’s not a matter of should. It’s a matter of do. Parents DO have a legal responsibility. However, that legal responsibility varies from state to state. Take out the word “legal” and you would have gotten a completely different answer.

    Kseniya: “I define “right” as being that which the all-knowing Me would support. ;-)”

    Gee, you mean morality doesn’t equal legality? C’mon, we all know it does. :)

    “If this case had happened in Florida the parents would have gotten off scot free. Not necessarily. The defendants in that one case, heard sixteen years ago, got off scot-free.”

    As you are probably aware, once a case like that happens it establishes a legal precedent which must be followed until such time as a court overturns it and establishes a new legal precedent. So yes, most likely the parents would have gotten away with this scot free if they had lived in Florida. But I’m assuming all the morality = legality folks here would approve of that, right?

  • #457 Kseniya
    May 1, 2008

    Re: problems commenting on Etha’s blog

    Obviously, Etha has designed her site to suppress opposing viewpoints.

    [*whistles, tunelessly*]

      *   *   *
    
    Tom, putting aside all the facts and figures for the moment, I must confess that I've lost sight of the central point of your argument. (Perhaps this is because I just woke up.) Are you saying that, because Big Medicine produces imperfect results, sitting around doing absolutely nothing praying is practically and morally identical to seeking medical help?
    
    I suggest that interested readers check out Tom's source:
    
    
  • http://www.wnho.net/ "The Global Warming Hoax"? I hear bells.
  • #458 Kseniya
    May 1, 2008

    Whoa… what happened THERE?

  • #459 Kseniya
    May 1, 2008

    Tom:

    As you are probably aware, once a case like that happens it establishes a legal precedent which must be followed until such time as a court overturns it and establishes a new legal precedent. So yes, most likely the parents would have gotten away with this scot free if they had lived in Florida.

    Ok, I accept that opinion. I misread the ruling as an admission of some kind of procedural error – that the “confusion” applied only to that specific case. My mistake.

    IAMDNAL

  • #460 kmarissa
    May 1, 2008

    The original question was badly phrased: “do you believe that parents should have any legal responsibility for taking care of their children?” It’s not a matter of should. It’s a matter of do. Parents DO have a legal responsibility. However, that legal responsibility varies from state to state. Take out the word “legal” and you would have gotten a completely different answer.

    Um, no, I’m sorry you feel the question was badly phrased, but I meant it exactly as it was written. Do you believe that parents should have a legal responsibility for taking care of their children? In other words, at what point do you think that the law should punish parents for neglect? It’s a fairly straightforward question, although the answer may be more nuanced.

    The fact that parents, generally speaking, DO have legal responsibility for taking care of their children is obvious. This is why the parents have been charged here; there is enough evidence of criminal conduct to bring charges.

    You seem to imply upthread that legally requiring parents to follow basic guidelines of emergency care is unjustifiable, which is why I find your current position of “the law should be how it is” to be very conflicted.

  • #461 MartinM
    May 1, 2008

    Simply entering a hospital could result in the following

    Dodgy statistics aside, you do realize that a high rate of iatrogenic events is not, in and of itself, an indicator of poor performance, yes? Consider a hypothetical world in which medical science has been perfected; Any patient, so long as they’re alive when they enter the hospital, can be saved. In such a world, fully 100% of all patient deaths in hospitals will be iatrogenic.

  • #462 Tom Marking
    May 1, 2008

    “You seem to imply upthread that legally requiring parents to follow basic guidelines of emergency care is unjustifiable”

    No, not at all. The purpose of the original hypotheticals was to get at what the rationale people were holding for punishing the parents. That was a good exercise in that the main reasons given were legalistic ones plus a bias against prayer, homeopathy, etc.

    “In other words, at what point do you think that the law should punish parents for neglect?”

    In general yes. However, it all depends on what we can assume was a forseeable consequence. To an atheist of course prayer is nothing and therefore the conclusion that it did nothing favorable is assumed a priori, so the death of the child was entirely forseeable. It’s not clear to me that to hard-core Christians it was forseeable. They clearly believed in prayer and the power of God to cure their daughter, and it probably came as a big shock to them when it didn’t work. So should they be held to the same standard of forseeability of the atheists? That’s the root question.

    There are so many other questions related to this too. Are there educational differences (i.e., do you hold a high-school dropout to the same standard of forseeability as a Ph.D?). So I’m not so confident in any answer I could give you on the root question.

  • #463 EntoAggie
    May 1, 2008

    @445

    “Scratch “dengue fever”, replace with “any serious communicable disease of your choosing”. It doesn’t impact the hypothetical at all.”

    I just thought I’d catch you on the details of your argument. Especially (I see later) in light of the fact that you were dismissing raven’s argument because of pulling numbers out of her ass. But, I know what you were trying to say, I just like to show off my smrats! :D

    I do express my sympathy for your child’s condition, and whatever it is that happened later. As a contrast (keeping in mind, of course, that the plural of anecdotes is not “data”), at two I came down with a very severe illness which caused both of my kidneys to lose function and almost killed me. Later, I had to receive a kidney transplant. So, while you have your personal story which makes you angry at the medical establishment, I have mine which makes me absolutely greatful for it–I am literally alive today because those doctors applied their training, research, and technology in, as Hematite put it, a good faith effort to save my life. The thing is, I was still very close to dying *anyway*. I was that sick. But…I didn’t. And now I can sit here at my computer, sipping my coffee, and having this lovely conversation with you. ;)

    Now, if my lovely agnostic mother had instead tried to conduct her own “medical treatment” at home by praying the illness away, would I be here?

    No.

    I’m not even going to get into probability and liklihoods and statistics. No. There is no chance.

    Thank God science for science.

    @448

    Thank you, Hematite. I try. *fluttering eyes coquettishly*

  • #464 kmarissa
    May 1, 2008

    However, it all depends on what we can assume was a forseeable consequence. To an atheist of course prayer is nothing and therefore the conclusion that it did nothing favorable is assumed a priori, so the death of the child was entirely forseeable. It’s not clear to me that to hard-core Christians it was forseeable.

    That’s sort of the point, though. The criminal conviction appears that it will come down to the mens rea involved in this situation. As discussed above, there is significant reason to believe that the parents knew that their child was seriously ill. Friends on the scene urged them to call an ambulance. The father sent an email requesting help, and stating that the girl was pale and had hardly any strength. They saw her thin, blue legs and knew that she was unable to speak or eat. If the parents honestly had absolutely no idea that their daughter needed medical attention, then the parents clearly do not have the knowledge necessary to properly care for their children, who should never be returned to them. It’s like claiming that you didn’t realize that children needed food to eat, or shouldn’t be kept living in sub-zero temperatures. Having the cluelessness required to be unaware of the risks in a situation such as this is to be so out of touch with the world as to border on an insanity plea.

  • #465 Hematite
    May 1, 2008
    Hematite thinks Kseniya put a <pre> tag in her post somehow. Clever stuff! Looking at the source, it's right before the three asterisks

    Was that a side effect of something else you were trying? I don’t know how you’d add a <pre> tag accidentally, unless perhaps the comment processor misinterpreted something you did.

  • #466 EntoAggie
    May 1, 2008

    Oh, I also wanted to add, that I have also been the victim of a medical mistake, although the mistake was not made by the doctors, but a pharmacist’s technician. She accidentally filled a scrip for Medrol (a steroid meant to depress my immune system, to prevent rejection of my transplanted kidney), with a different medication. She kept the dosage the same, but the thing is, with this new medication, the dosage was about ten times higher than what should have been given to a kid my weight. When she discovered her mistake, instead of owning up, she covered it up and continued to give me the same medication. It went from a mistake to willful and intentional.

    The side effects were horrible. I gained 40 pounds over the space of a year (I was eleven). I sprouted hair all over my face and body. The medicine gave me a cataract in one eye. It eroded my gums. It made my bones fragile.

    I was in middle school at the time. The teasing was horrendous. I still suffer depression to this day from the mental trauma I underwent. Many of the physical effects, such as the cataract, I still have to this day.

    My mother finally discovered the mistake when, a year later, she was consulting the PDR and was tipped off that what I was undergoing was not normal. We sued the pharmacy, won $100K (well, $75K after lawyer fees), and the pharmacy tech lost her ability to practice again.

    What I am trying to say is…if anyone should be bitter, it should be me. But I’m not. I am aware that my case was a rare anomaly, something that doesn’t normally happen. And justice did prevail.

    And, importantly, even with the mistake, my kidney did not reject, and I am still alive. If my mother had simply prayed for my kidney to not be rejected? Okay, I may have remained slim and hairless, but…

    Well, let’s just say I would have made a pretty corpse.

  • #467 Nick Gotts
    May 1, 2008

    the main reasons given were legalistic ones plus a bias against prayer, homeopathy, etc.

    Translation: the main reasons were that they broke the law, and a bias against things that don’t work.

  • #468 Kseniya
    May 1, 2008

    Having the cluelessness required to be unaware of the risks in a situation such as this is to be so out of touch with the world as to border on an insanity plea.

    Thanks, km, you saved me the trouble of writing up the same basic comment. There’s a tipping point beyond which “other ways of knowing” tumble down into the dark realm of insanity. The belief that a child will get well “if only we have enough faith” lies near, but surely within, the borders of that realm. There are worse beliefs, but this one resulted in a death that could easily have been prevented. Really, now – what more needs to be said?

  • #469 Etha Williams
    May 1, 2008

    @#466 EntoAggie —

    Speaking of medical/pharmaceutical mistakes —

    When I was 8 I had pink eye. The idiot pharmacist filled it with some kind of stimulant instead, and since I was taking much too large a dose of it (pink eye medicine doses were larger than the appropriate doses for this, plus which I didn’t even need the medicine) my pupils started to dilate, everything was incredibly blurry and bright, and I was effectively blind. I didn’t dare tell my parents because at the time I was paranoid that if anyone found out that anything was wrong with me, I’d somehow be “defective” and be sent away and institutionalized or something. No one found out until one day, high on the stimulant effects of it, I ran into my parents’ bedroom late at night babbling utter nonesense.

    Nonetheless, I rely on drugs bought from pharmacies every day, and I wouldn’t say the mistakes of that individual idiot pharmacist (who did get fired) suggest to me that I should never trust medicine again. (It does, however, suggest to me that I should check that my medicine looks exactly as it’s supposed to before taking it.)

  • #470 Tom Marking
    May 1, 2008

    “I suggest that interested readers check out Tom’s source”

    If you had bothered to check the footnotes in the URL you would have noticed that each statement of fact has its own reference. Thus,

    “The number of people having in-hospital, adverse drug reactions (ADR) to prescribed medicine is 2.2 million.
    (1) —
    Lazarou J, Pomeranz B, Corey P. Incidence of adverse drug reactions in hospitalized patients. JAMA. 1998;279:1200-1205″

    “The number of unnecessary medical and surgical procedures performed annually is 7.5 million.
    (3) —
    Calculations detailed in Unnecessary Surgery section, from two sources: (13) http://hcup.ahrq.gov/HCUPnet.asp (see Instant Tables: 2001 prerun tables: most common procedures) and (71) US Congressional House Subcommittee Oversight Investigation. Cost and Quality of Health Care: Unnecessary Surgery. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1976.”

    “The number of people exposed to unnecessary hospitalization annually is 8.9 million.
    (4) —
    Calculations from four sources, see Unnecessary Hospitalization section: (13) http://hcup.ahrq.gov/HCUPnet.asp (see Instant Tables: 2001 prerun tables: most common diagnoses) and (93) Siu AL, Sonnenberg FA, Manning WG, Goldberg GA, Bloomfield ES, Newhouse JP, Brook RH. Inappropriate use of hospitals in a randomized trial of health insurance plans. NEJM. 1986 Nov 13;315(20):1259-66. and (94) Siu AL, Manning WG, Benjamin B. Patient, provider and hospital characteristics associated with inappropriate hospitalization. Am J Public Health. 1990 Oct;80(10):1253-6. and (95) Eriksen BO, Kristiansen IS, Nord E, Pape JF, Almdahl SM, Hensrud A, Jaeger S. The cost of inappropriate admissions: a study of health benefits and resource utilization in a department of internal medicine. J Intern Med. 1999 Oct;246(4):379-87.”

    If you want to quarrel with the Journal of the American Medical Association, the United States Congress, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of Internal Medicine, etc., etc. then go right ahead. However, you will look rather foolish claiming these statistics are “dodgy” if you do choose that route.

    BTW, here are some other URLs for you to look at that have nothing to do with http://www.wnho.net:

    http://www.healthe-livingnews.com/articles/death_by_medicine_part_1.html

    http://www.campaignfortruth.com/Eclub/230304/death%20by%20medicine.htm

    http://www.medicinefreeliving.com/Articles/Article_DEATH%20BY%20MEDICINE.pdf

    They are all essentially the same article. It has nothing to do with http://www.whno.net.

  • #471 Kseniya
    May 1, 2008

    Hematite: Yes, I’d forgotten about my [pre] tag, and forgot to close it. Oops. D’oh. My bad.

    My intent was to use the [pre] to allow me to space those asterisks as I pleased. I wanted a little section delimiter in my comment. The default formatting yields an anemic little row of asterisks that doesn’t really do the job, and is aesthetically displeasing to me. (The lack of a delimiter in an earlier comment of mine rendered the overall meaning of the comment rather ambiguous, and I wanted to avoid that.)

       *    *    *    *    *

    (That’s better!) Ironic, though, that I broke the page, given that I was complaining about overly-long links on another thread a couple of days ago… LOL… EPIC FAIL. There a “law” about that kind of thing. Grammar- and spelling-nazi comments usually contain errors in grammar or spelling. :-)

  • #472 EntoAggie
    May 1, 2008

    Etha Williams: exactly. I would never suggest someone blindly submit themselves to the will of a doctor/pharmacist, to meekly undergo anything, especially as diagnoses and treatment options become more severe or invasive. If you get a terrible diagnosis, get a second opinion–it doesn’t mean that you think the first doctor was a liar, and any doctor worth her title is going to understand. Always check your scrips, make sure you’ve got the right one, the right dosage, and that it doesn’t counteract with anything you’re currently taking. Monitor your reactions. Tell your doctor if they’re bad. Adjust the dosage, or get off the meds entirely. Always make sure that any side effects you experience are tolerable compared to the benefit you are receiving.

    I’ve never understood people who just blindly throw any drugs into their bodies without any measure of responsibility or research, anymore than I understand those who completely reject the entire medical establishment because of the rare mistake. My experiences didn’t make me reject medicine: they just made me scrutinize it more. Hey, it’s worked so far. ;)

  • #473 Tom Marking
    May 1, 2008

    “I suggest that interested readers check out Tom’s source”

    I apologize if this gets repeated twice. My first response didn’t go through.

    Look at the footnotes in the URL. Each statement of fact has its own reference. Thus,

    “The number of people having in-hospital, adverse drug reactions (ADR) to prescribed medicine is 2.2 million.
    (1) —
    Lazarou J, Pomeranz B, Corey P. Incidence of adverse drug reactions in hospitalized patients. JAMA. 1998;279:1200-1205.”

    “The number of unnecessary medical and surgical procedures performed annually is 7.5 million.
    (3) —
    Calculations detailed in Unnecessary Surgery section, from two sources: (13) http://hcup.ahrq.gov/HCUPnet.asp (see Instant Tables: 2001 prerun tables: most common procedures) and (71) US Congressional House Subcommittee Oversight Investigation. Cost and Quality of Health Care: Unnecessary Surgery. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1976.”

    “The number of people exposed to unnecessary hospitalization annually is 8.9 million.
    (4) —
    Calculations from four sources, see Unnecessary Hospitalization section: (13) http://hcup.ahrq.gov/HCUPnet.asp (see Instant Tables: 2001 prerun tables: most common diagnoses) and (93) Siu AL, Sonnenberg FA, Manning WG, Goldberg GA, Bloomfield ES, Newhouse JP, Brook RH. Inappropriate use of hospitals in a randomized trial of health insurance plans. NEJM. 1986 Nov 13;315(20):1259-66. and (94) Siu AL, Manning WG, Benjamin B. Patient, provider and hospital characteristics associated with inappropriate hospitalization. Am J Public Health. 1990 Oct;80(10):1253-6. and (95) Eriksen BO, Kristiansen IS, Nord E, Pape JF, Almdahl SM, Hensrud A, Jaeger S. The cost of inappropriate admissions: a study of health benefits and resource utilization in a department of internal medicine. J Intern Med. 1999 Oct;246(4):379-87.”

    If you want to quarrel with the Journal of the American Medical Association, the United States Congress, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of Internal Medicine, etc., etc. then go right ahead. However I’d probably say your opposition is a bit “dodgy”.

  • #474 Kseniya
    May 1, 2008

    Exactly. Caveat emptor.

    The occasional lemon car isn’t evidence that the fundamental concept of “automobile” is hopelessly flawed.

    People make mistakes. If a mistake is sufficiently serious, there may be a price to pay. A mistake, however, do not necessarily reflect negatively on the overall value of whatever goods and services a vocation or profession intends to provide. Ditto for errors committed by people who are just stupid, or lazy, or dishonest, or downright evil. There must be a logical fallacy that covers this kind of generalizing from exceptional cases line of thinking…

    But holy dangling dendrite, Batman – do I have a bad headache today! All y’all pray for me, now. Thanks.

  • #475 MartinM
    May 1, 2008

    If you want to quarrel with the Journal of the American Medical Association, the United States Congress, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of Internal Medicine, etc., etc. then go right ahead. However I’d probably say your opposition is a bit “dodgy”.

    Alternatively, we could quarrel with the way in which these figures are abused by your source. I particularly liked the part where they took the figures for unnecessary hospitalization and unnecessary surgical procedures and added them together.

  • #476 Kseniya
    May 1, 2008

    However I’d probably say your opposition is a bit “dodgy”.

    Yes, Tom, you’re quite right; I confess I got pretty lazy there. Time constraints this morning… plus this darn headache. I can’t help but be skeptical about sites that appear to be cornua copiae of reactionary politics and pseudoscience, but given that “skepticism” essentially demands that I check it out for myself, well.. I have failed miserably in doing so. Well, I get an Incomplete, at least. :-)

    As a side note, please accept my best wishes for you and your loved ones, and I hope they are well.

  • #477 Marcus Ranum
    May 1, 2008

    Lee Brimmicombe-Wood writes:
    Sorry, but I reject your nihilism, Marcus. Are you not a Godly troll trying to give us atheists a bad name?

    Gee, thanks a lot. Just because someone disagrees with you, they must be an agent provocateur working for your enemies!!! Never mind the implicit insult of implying I am a theist — you then proceed to make a set of statements that indicate you’re far more of a creo than I’ll ever be.

    Of course life has a meaning. At its most basic level we have a drive to procreate, rear young and protect and nurture both the current and next generations. These are profound biological imperatives, fecund with meaning.

    I see.

    Your notion of “meaning” is pretty thin, then. So a bacterium on a petri dish has “meaning” because of its drive to reproduce? A fly has “meaning” because it buzzes around and reproduces? Wow. Pardon me while I contemplate, in raptured awe, the “meaning” of the bacteria in my mouth before I brush my teeth.

    What I think you’re saying, actually, is “gosh darn, Marcus, I have a whole lotta lotta meaning to me!!!” Well, yeah, that’s true: you and every other denizen of this petri dish we live in. But if you’re an atheist and you’ve got any basic understanding of how big the universe is, and how small we are – and how compressed our time-scale of living – then how can you possibly convince yourself your actions and intentions have “meaning”?? To do so is monumental, colossal ego-centrism: you might as well assert that you’re the center of the universe or that there’s a supreme all-powerful being who thinks you, personally, are important. Because of what? Your drive to procreate?

    However, our intelligence permits us to transcend even this, to create vivid and vibrant cultures.

    Bacteria in petri dishes also create vivid and vibrant cultures. Right up to the moment they go into the incinerator. Is this “meaning”?? Only if you adopt a view of extreme “me! me! me!” egocentrism to the point where “me! me! me!” becomes your personal god by revelation.

    Civilization has its deeply squalid side, but can also be sublime, ineffable, wonderful.

    You’re making the same mistake the fundies make when they say “wow! the world is like this because god built it for us!” — aren’t you getting that backwards? Civilization is a byproduct of mankind; it is a human creation. Civilization does not give you meaning – it’s partly your creation (and mine, and everyone else’s). Perhaps you give civilization it’s “meaning” but in that sense, you may as well say the white cliffs of Dover are the compressed “meaning” of all the little life-forms whose shells are entombed within it. And please remember, it’s still early innings for Homo Sapiens. While we’re waiting for our little solar system to wind up in the great cosmic incinerator, the “meaning” of your life will be that some of the molecules on earth might have once been part of you, or passed through your lungs or kidneys. Keep the “meaning” of your drive to thrive and reproduce in an appropriate time-scale and we, and everything we love, think, or cherish, are nothing more than the writhings of a slightly new form of biological scum on the surface of a not-very interesting planet.

    You may regard this as a delusion and liken it to the empty comforts of religious faith

    Well, that is what you’re talking about, right?

    but that’s a nihilist’s view, bleak and unhappy. It is, if left uncorrected, an inhuman perspective.

    Next I expect you to pull out a bible and start thumping it and screeching “without GOD what’s the point of living?!” The accusation you’re making about my nihilism being inhuman, bleak, and unhappy is exactly what the creos say about atheists!!!! Isn’t it??

    I’ll let the “uncorrected” part slide; you’re not going to “correct” me if all you offer is argument by vigorous assertion.

    Culture exists. Civilization has tangible benefits.

    Of course it does. What does that have to do with “meaning” except in the most limited sense of the word?

    Even religion is real, though the gods the faithful worship are not. These things cannot be dismissed lightly as illusion.

    This from the person who accused me of being a stealth creo?

    They are the products of life and existence.

    So are piss and shit. Do they have “meaning”? Of course not. They’re just food for bacteria and primary decomposers and then are forgotten.

    They have meaning, even if sometimes that meaning is hard to discern, or we squabble about the exact nature of that meaning. We can certainly state with confidence they do not have NO meaning, except possibly in the fevered imagination of misanthropes such as yourself.

    Did you just publicly challenge me to prove a negative?? Why not ask me to prove that there’s no god, while I’m at it?

    I must renounce your hateful and inhumane world view.

    Hey, you’re welcome to. You can even renounce gravity, if you like. For all the good it’ll do you. Is “I renounce your world view” the philosopher’s equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!!” You don’t have to listen to me: listen to the fossil record. Listen to the radio observatories recording the death-throes of dying suns. They’re all louder than you.

    Tell ya what – since you think your life has meaning, tell me what your life will “mean” 100 million years from now? If you’re an atheist and you know anything about the size and age of the universe, I submit to you that the only “meaning” you can find is the egocentric wailings of a bacterium refusing to go gently into that good night.

    mjr.

  • #478 brokenSoldier
    May 1, 2008

    Tom:

    To an atheist of course prayer is nothing and therefore the conclusion that it did nothing favorable is assumed a priori, so the death of the child was entirely forseeable. It’s not clear to me that to hard-core Christians it was forseeable. They clearly believed in prayer and the power of God to cure their daughter, and it probably came as a big shock to them when it didn’t work. So should they be held to the same standard of forseeability of the atheists? That’s the root question.

    The parents – as set by legal precedent – had a legal obligation to obtain care for their child. Prayer has repeatedly been debunked concerning its medical efficacy in improving any condition at all. Just because these specific parents believed that prayer could help – and actually, it wouldn’t matter how many citizens believed in prayer’s medical benefit – because medical science has shown that it has absolutely no effect on a patient’s condition.

    If a child was dying of some terminal disease, and the parents truly believed in the healing power of aspirin, therefore giving their dying child nothing but aspirin in lieu of medical treatments they didn’t “believe could help,” they would be legally responsible for the child’s death. Not because of their beliefs in aspirin, mind you, but because they failed to seek adequate medical treatment in full knowledge that their child needed it.

    Aspirin can fix a lot of things, but not all. But at least aspirin’s efficacy as medicine is constant and proven, and not dependent on supernatural plans or the number of people that believe in its benefit.

  • #479 EntoAggie
    May 1, 2008

    Marcus, do you have a job? I assume you do, since you have the money to buy access to the internet and/or a computer. Where do you work? Why do you work there? Do you enjoy it?

    If you enjoy it, well you’d better STOP RIGHT NOW. Because that would imply that that job has MEANING, and as we all know “meaning” is a complete delusion and unfitting for atheists such as ourselves. How dare you persist in such petty delusions such as pursuing a meaningful career?

    Are you married or in a relationship? Better break up. Having someone who loves you, and loving them back, doesn’t mean anything in a world where the sun will engulf the earth in a few billion years.

    Do you have any hobbies? Well, what’s the point, man? You may as well be a Bible-thumping creationist who thinks that people rode dinosaurs 5500 years ago.

    Have you ever tried to do anything nice for your community? Donated to a charity? Helped an old lady cross the street? Picked up a piece of litter? Written a thank you note? Made the coffee for your coworkers in the morning? Bought someone a birthday gift? Voted for president? Gone to college? Stopped at the crosswalk to let pedestrians pass? Made a nice meal for your family? Lent your jacket when someone was cold? Given a fuck about anyone, anywhere, at anytime?

    Why, man, why??!! Here I was, thinking you were such a fine, upstanding atheist, perfect in every way measureable, certainly better than the rest of us ignorant deluded souls…and then I find out that you actually find some sort of…oh, dare I even say it…”meaning” in your life.

    It’s too much to bear. Please, never post here again…the thought may cause me to break into tears!!

    *swoon swoon*

  • #480 cicely
    May 1, 2008

    Re: problems commenting on Etha’s blog

    It appears that the problem is that in order to comment, I would be required to create a blog; at least, that’s where I keep ending up. I have less than no interest in having a blog, so….

    If there’s some way of avoiding this, that someone could point out to me, I’d appreciate the help. Keeping in mind that my computer-interface powers are less than Super. Using small words might help. :)

    (With apologies to all for the off-topic blather.)

  • #481 frog
    May 1, 2008

    Marcus: “What I think you’re saying, actually, is “gosh darn, Marcus, I have a whole lotta lotta meaning to me!!!” Well, yeah, that’s true: you and every other denizen of this petri dish we live in. But if you’re an atheist and you’ve got any basic understanding of how big the universe is, and how small we are – and how compressed our time-scale of living – then how can you possibly convince yourself your actions and intentions have “meaning”?? To do so is monumental, colossal ego-centrism: you might as well assert that you’re the center of the universe or that there’s a supreme all-powerful being who thinks you, personally, are important. Because of what? Your drive to procreate?”

    Marcus, there is no universal viewpoint. You’re comparing the only viewpoint we have, our subjective local viewpoint, and then comparing it with what “meaning” would mean, if there were a god to see it. But the god’s eye viewpoint is not only empty, but is a logical impossibility.

    So if all you are saying is that we don’t have “meaning” from some absolute, universal point of view – so what? That “meaning” of meaning is simply devoid of meaning.

    What we actually mean when we say “X has meaning” is “X has meaning to Y”, to an actual entity that can interpret that meaning. So yes, a bacteria’s life has some semblance of “meaning” (to anthropomorphize) to a bacteria. And a chimp’s life definitely has “meaning” to a chimp (and the people involved with them).

    The fallacy you’re falling into is the same fallacy that religious folks fall into – that because I can imagine something (God, The Universal View, etc) and I can put it into a grammatical sentence, my statement actually make sense. It just doesn’t make sense, semantically and logically, to talk about meaning without referencing a subject. That’s just a bug in English grammer – if it were up to me, the sentence “X means Y”, without an explicit “to Z”, would be an ungrammatical sentence – the preposition would be required. Either that, or I would make the indirect object the subject of my new “means” verb.

    In programming jargon, English has insufficient type-checking, leading to buggy statements.

  • #482 kmarissa
    May 1, 2008

    Perhaps this is hopelessly naïve on my part, but are y’all sure you’re defining “meaning” the same way?

  • #483 frog
    May 1, 2008

    Marissa,

    We’re not using the same definition. My point is that the definition that Marcus is using is nonsense – a leftover religious impulse makes it appear to make sense, but it just doesn’t mean anything to say “X means Y” without at least implicitly assuming a “to Z”.

    Marcus seems to thing that there can exist, at least conceptually, a “universal meaning”, so that life can lack “meaning to everyone and everything from a God’s eye viewpoint”, since there is no God. I say nonsense – that that formulation of meaning is meaningless logically to anyone, anywhere, anywhen.

    Marcus is pointing out that we’re not magical fairies, and then draws conclusions from that. But there are no conclusions to that, since there is no such thing as magical fairies in the first place and there can’t possibly be magical fairies, which makes the precedent a meaningless statement with no entailments. Us not being magical fairies in no way distinguishes us from any possibly existing beings.

    It may seem like angels on the head of a pin – but I think it’s actually a very important phenomena that underlies a lot of religious thinking, as has been pointed out since Lucretius. The fact that we can make a statement that appears to be meaningful doesn’t make it so – and we can go on and think we’re making a logical argument, or at least a sensible story, even though it all should be thrown away due to invalid premises.

  • #484 EntoAggie
    May 1, 2008

    kmarissa, no, we’re not defining it the same, and that is the problem:

    From his comments Marcus seems (I could be mistaken, of course) to be defining “meaning” as some universal, objective reason for why we do things, and that there is no such thing as this sort of meaning. In which case, I doubt there are many here who disagree with him.

    What we’re trying to say is that there is subjective, *human* meaning, which we give ourselves, for no other reason that, well, we have evolved to do it, and it feels good, etc. It’s like he refuses to accept that this is even possible, and to, say, care about a particular little girl’s death is as delusional as thinking the world was created by God 6000 years ago.

    IIRC, this is also the same guy who was on here a few months ago when the bridge in Minneapolis collapsed, ranting that all of us were being stupid for caring about those people’s deaths.

    I don’t know why I respond to him, frankly. It’s like an addiction…a horrible, unhealthy addiction….

  • #485 kmarissa
    May 1, 2008

    Frog, that was the impression that I was getting, although admittedly I’m not reading your thread as closely as all of you probably are. It appears by my reading that Marcus is defining “meaning” as some sort of big, floating, “somewhere out there” ultimate goal of the universe, but I could be significantly misconstruing his posts.

  • #486 frog
    May 1, 2008

    Ento: “What we’re trying to say is that there is subjective, *human* meaning, which we give ourselves, for no other reason that, well, we have evolved to do it, and it feels good, etc.”

    There’s more to it than that. It’s not just that we are evolved to have subjective meaning – it’s that it’s an inherent part of any conscious information processing entity. It’s objective in that sense, and not simply a side effect of our evolution (or, it’s a side-effect of our evolution because evolution works on information processing entities.)

    Meaning, in the subjective sense, doesn’t just exist; it’s actually necessary, and when Marcus says “life has no meaning”, he/she’s either incoherent or wrong. It’s like Marcus is trying to argue that she/he doesn’t exist.

    Maybe we should agree with Marcus that Marcus doesn’t exist?

  • #487 EntoAggie
    May 1, 2008

    frog, sounds good to me.

    Marcus doesn’t exist, and has no meaning.

    Ahhhh…that was freeing. :)

  • #488 negentropyeater
    May 1, 2008

    Frog,

    I think Marcus was refering to the term “meaning” as it was being used by Etha in her post #133

    These things allow us to create meaning in our lives beyond the simple struggle for individual existence. These things allow us to learn about our animal origins, and also not be beholden to them.

    Can we ? Can we create meaning in our lives as she so clearly affirmates ?
    I think it is a very personal question, a “personal journey ” as I would say. And not so unwise is the one who declares his will to nothingness, and this journey refuses to undertake. Because it is very unfortunate but true that many a wise man has lost his way and in this enterprise has forgotten to enjoy life.

  • #489 EntoAggie
    May 1, 2008

    negentropyeater:

    But can’t

    “create meaning in our lives beyond the simple struggle for individual existence”

    and

    “enjoy life”

    be one and the same? Perhaps for some people, searching for meaning involves learning and philosophy and appreciating our origins, whereas for someone else, “meaning” may be found in a burrito and a cold beer. What Marcus seems to be implying is that neither one of those has any value…subjectively or objectively. The objective part I can agree with, but subjectively….whatever. I can give him his nilhism (sp?), that’s fine.

    Ooo, speaking of burritos and beer, it’s five o’ clock, and I have a three day weekend. If ya’ll don’t mind, I’m gonna go search for some…”meaning”…right about now.

  • #490 Ray
    May 1, 2008

    Why doesn’t their god ever replace missing limbs? This would surely be quite easy for a god who’s all powerful, no?

  • #491 Tulse
    May 1, 2008

    Ray, you should check out http://www.whydoesgodhateamputees.com.

  • #492 frog
    May 1, 2008

    negentropyeater: “Can we create meaning in our lives as she so clearly affirmates ?
    I think it is a very personal question, a “personal journey ” as I would say. And not so unwise is the one who declares his will to nothingness, and this journey refuses to undertake. Because it is very unfortunate but true that many a wise man has lost his way and in this enterprise has forgotten to enjoy life.”

    Not only can we, I would say, we must by definition. Now, if you chase after the specter of “Universal Meaning”, of course you are wasting your life; it just doesn’t exist and it’s postively meaningless, like chasing the Ur-mximpl-icious Ifrzapt.

    But I think we all find meaning in our lives by necessity, whether it’s doing obscure research on condensed matter physics, or by boinking as many people as often as we can. If you say you have no meaning in your life, I say you lie. It has to mean something to you, even if it’s just to contemplate the utter emptiness of it all. It would be like trying to convince me that you don’t believe you don’t exist – I’d say you either don’t know what “believe” or “exist” mean, you’re a liar, or you’re insane.

    The next step is then the question of whether we should become conscious of this meaning, or leave it implicit. Most serial-boinkers probably don’t contemplate the meaning of their boinking – it just means what it means. That’s a personal choice; navel gazing isn’t for everyone! Some folks would rather gaze at other body parts.

  • #493 frog
    May 1, 2008

    It would be like trying to convince me that you don’t believe you don’t exist
    –>
    It would be like trying to convince me that you do believe that you don’t exist

  • #494 Kseniya
    May 1, 2008

    Cicely,

    FWIW… I didn’t have any trouble commenting on Etha’s blog. I posted two comments: one using my Google login, and one using the name/URL option.

    You don’t need to start a blog to use the google/blogger login – you only need a Google ID. If you use Gmail, you already have one.

    When I tried name/URL, I had no trouble – though I did *not* preview, and I *did* clear out the URL field before I posted. Not a comprehensive test I’m afraid. Sorry.

  • #495 Hematite
    May 1, 2008

    Cicely,

    Right below the comment box you type in, there are a couple of options – under the heading “Choose and identity” – for what name to attach to the comment. The top one, which is selected by default, is to use a Blogger profile. The username/password boxes there relate to Blogger profiles, which is why you’re being asked to create an account.

    Instead, click on one of the options just below that (OpenID, Name/URL, Anonymous) to get different ways of attaching a name to the post. I use Name/URL which is pretty much like posting on ScienceBlogs.

  • #496 Hematite
    May 2, 2008

    Ah, poor Marcus. Gone I think, or lurking. His name links to a real identity, you know. I think he’s quite sincere, if obnoxious.

    It might be useful to say to him that although (on average over the life of the universe) humanity is irrelevant, we each definitely do exist in our own local place and time with a presence much higher than background noise. Every voluntary action we take is put into effect by a tiny spark of personal meaning we have assigned to it. Whatever spurs us to action is part of the meaning we have assigned to life, consciously or otherwise. Desires, aspirations, morals – not scientificly defensible but we all have them and follow them, and become happy or angry because of them, because that’s the crazy way people are made.

  • #497 Derek Colanduno
    May 2, 2008

    When I was in a coma in the hospital after my sroke, one of the days the doctor told my wife: “All you can do now is pray.”….

    She lost it and yelled at everyone there until they would give her a doctor who would give her real information and come up with REAL ideas and plans to make sure I would be okay.

    So, I completely agree… :)

  • #498 Adam
    May 4, 2008

    Please euthanize these inbred hicks. they require severe psychiatric electroshock therapy thinking that prayer will cure hyperglecemia. You know the other people that believe in prayer were the puritans, wonder how may of them survived after the first year in the new world (exactly 1/3 leftover).

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